Business adviser Peter Drucker once said, “You can not predict the future, but you can create it.”
Many companies are committed to building the future, but few understand what they need to do to get teams to come up with new and innovative ideas over and over again.
In the last 25 years of my career I have discovered that enterprises, large and small, often struggle to create iterative strategies and processes that make them truly competitive. 50 years ago, a little-known children’s book introduced the SCAMPER model as a way to help teachers promote creativity in their classrooms. It’s a very simple and incredibly powerful tool to drive thought beyond “business as usual”.
Here’s how it works. SCAMPER is an acronym. SCAMPER means Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to Another Use, Eliminate AND Reverse (Replace, Combine, Customize, Change, Use in another form, Eliminate, Return). This acronym is used to help people think differently from the masses. Each letter prompts people to answer a question related to the situation. Choose a letter or scroll through them.
SCAMPER can be used to develop new ideas, improve existing offerings or business processes, or create entirely new products and services. Once a set of ideas or concepts are born, the best ideas need to be selected and further refined, by sharing and testing them with colleagues and clients.
To make SCAMPER as fruitful as possible, consider the answers to the various questions next to each word:
- S (Substitute – Replace) – Are there any different materials or resources you can use to create the products you currently make?
- C (Combine – Combine) – Can this product or service be combined with another existing product to find a better solution.
- A (Adapt) – Can the product or service be adapted or modified to serve another group of users?
- M (Modify – Change) – Are there features that can be changed, added or adjusted in terms of physical aspect or functionality?
- P (Put to Another Use) – Are there other industries for which this product or service might be useful?
- E (Eliminate – Eliminate) – Is there anything in this product or service that is not needed and can be eliminated to reduce costs or delivery time?
- R (Reverse – Return) – Can the creation of this product or service be returned or done in another way, to make it more efficient or effective?
Use SCAMPER in brainstorming discussions or give it to employees as part of a set of innovation tools. In both cases, when the team applies the method of what it is doing, it will be able to find ideas for new products, services, processes and business models.