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SCAMPER is a productive and versatile technique for generating innovative ideas for your product or service. It forces you to look at your offering from seven different perspectives. Paul Sloane explains, and gives some examples of companies that have used this popular and highly effective technique to generate innovative products and services.

One of the most popular creativity methods in my Ideas Workshop is SCAMPER.  It is a productive and versatile technique for generating innovative ideas for your product or service.  It forces you to look at your offering from seven different perspectives.  SCAMPER is an acronym and you ask the following types of question when you use this tool:

  • Substitute: What elements of this product or service can we substitute?
  • Combine: How can we combine this with other products or services?
  • Adapt: What idea from elsewhere can we alter or adapt?
  • Maximize or minimize: How can we greatly enlarge or greatly reduce any component?
  • Put to other use: What completely different use can we have for our product?
  • Eliminate: What elements of the product or service can be eliminated?
  • Rearrange or reverse: How can we rearrange the product or reverse the process?

Here are some examples of how the SCAMPER verbs work for innovation:

  • If you were making spectacles then you could substitute plastic lenses for glass (incremental innovation) or you could substitute contact lenses for spectacles (radical innovation).
  • A mobile phone was combined with a camera and then an MP3 player.
  • The roll-on deodorant was an idea adapted from the ballpoint pen.
  • Restaurants that offer all you can eat have maximized their proposition.
  • A low cost airline like Ryanair has minimized (or eliminated) many elements of service.
  • De Beers put industrial diamonds to other use when they launched engagement rings.
  • Dell Computers and Amazon eliminated the intermediary.
  • McDonalds rearranged the restaurant by getting customers to pay first and then eat.

Innovation Starts During the Onboarding Process

The best way to embed innovation into your DNA is to start training employees on innovation on their first day. One Michigan-based financial cooperative does this and it has led to new products and services that are helping them to better serve their customers. Hear the full story in this podcast interview.

Luciano Passuello has posted a section of his blog on SCAMPER together with a SCAMPER random question generator and a SCAMPER mindmap.  If you want to use this tool in your next brainstorm meeting, then these resources are highly recommended.

Paul Sloane is the head of the BQF Innovation Unit. His website is http://www.destination-innovation.com/. His new book, The Innovative Leader, is published by Kogan Page.