The SCAMPER method is one of the best known problem solving methods in the world and is frequently used to give free rein to our imagination with minimal constraints. This technique was first introduced by the author Alex F. Osborn in 1953, where he asked many questions about a product or service in order to bring out possible solutions, ideas or directions to solve a given problem. In the 1970s, Bob Eberle simplified this technique in his book on children's creativity by proposing an acronym: SCAMPER. This method is referred to as the "crushing technique". The general idea is to break down the elements of a system or product in order to reinvent its content.
SCAMPER: Questions to ask for each element of the acronym
Let's take the example of a chair that we want to reinvent with this technique...
S for Substitute
This is the act of replacing or exchanging one element with another in order to bring about a change or an unexpected idea. For example, think of replacing an office chair with a ball to work on an individual's posture and ergonomics.
Questions to ask when finding substitutes:
What part can be replaced?
Can the rules be changed?
Can other materials be used?
C for Copy or Combine
This means asking how the product or service can be inspired by what already exists to add value. Note that some books replace the term "copy" by "combine".
We can think of a desk to which we add an electric motor: we can adjust the height and work sitting or standing according to the desire or needs of its user.
In our example, combining an electric motor and a chair opens new possibilities.
A for Associate
We are trying to understand if there is a possibility to add a feature or functionality to the product or service. For example, the question to ask might be: Can I modify my product to be more ergonomic in a room or to create more storage space?
Let's add a feature or functionality to our chair:
M for Modify
Here we try to bring a new look and to question the already established parameters. Think of the "Air pods", those small portable headphones. They have added areas made of rubber so that they are rougher and do not fall out of the ears.
In this case, we can ask ourselves the following questions:
Will the change in its characteristics change the shape or quality of the product?
How will changing the process change the outcome?
In the case of our chair, think of the transition from the initial, simple model to the models available today in companies that allow for adjustments in height, tilt, have casters, headrests, etc.
P for Put to another use
This means that your product, process or service can also be put to another use or be diverted from its usual use. Confront all proposals, even if the results may be uncommon or, at first glance, strange. Consider an example as simplistic as the potato creating... electricity!
Some people use chairs for speed competitions...
E for Eliminate
Or how to try to do the maximum with the minimum! This way, you can reduce your product or service to its most important function. "Less is more", as they say! Like the bicycle from which the handlebars and one wheel have been removed... creating a unicycle! Its main function remains the same, to allow its user to move.
What parts can I remove?
Do I really need each of these parts?
Is there anything repetitive that I can do differently?
As for our chair, if I remove the back and armrests... it becomes a stool
R for Reverse
Where "Reversing" what is established allows for innovative and/or "out of the box" situations. Note that some people use the term "reorganize" rather than "reverse". Think of the empty space that is created under a staircase: why not make it a nice office space to study in peace?
Can we reverse the cause and effect of this product or service?
If we change some of its properties, what would happen?
Isn't the weakness of the product or service actually a strength?
If we reverse the use of our chair, it can become a fitness accessory
The SCAMPER technique is frequently used in companies to stimulate the creativity of their teams when the time comes to rethink a product or a service. Beware, you can become a brake on your creativity by restricting yourself strictly to the uses you know of your product or service. Don't hesitate to let yourself go and open yourself up to all possibilities, no matter how crazy they may be!
To go further :
Creativity: putting ideation at the service of the organization
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