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The flow design pattern of the “SCAMPER” technique

 

Name:    SCAMPER    

Context

Creative problem solving process is often characterized by the divergent nature of human thought and action. Divergent thinking involves being able to merge, or combine, unusual ideas. Researchers have acknowledged the importance of recombination of ideas, or previous effective problem solutions, as central to the process of producing a creative and innovative solution to a given problem.
Example
We can imagine food manufacturers that often produce modifications of their flagship products in order to stimulate new consumers and increase their sales.

Forces

In order to use SCAMPER there must have been already a pluggable solution to a specific problem. This creativity method needs only one participant which doesn’t play any roles. It has no complexity, since the only module of it is the answer to one or a number of ready made questions on the already working solution in order to produce a new working outcome.

Problem

How can we help people to generate new, more complex or complicated ideas (or problem solutions) based one existing  idea or based on several simple ideas or existing solutions?

Solution

SCAMPER is a problem solving technique which can be used to spark the creativity of people that try to solve specific problems and helps them reuse existing ideas or effective existing solutions to similar problems. The main idea behind SCAMPER technique, which has been developed by Bob Eberle (1997), is that everything new is a modification of something that already exists.
Each letter in the acronym SCAMPER represents a different way someone can visualize the components of a problem and how new ideas can be triggered from existing ideas/cases:

S = Substitute
C = Combine
A = Adapt
M = Modify
P = Put to Other Uses
E = Eliminate (or Minify)
R = Rearrange (or Reverse)

Types of tasks

The SCAMPER technique provides the stakeholders with a set of directed questions in order to direct them coming up with new ideas. These questions should not be posed in normally brainstorming sessions but should be typically used to direct in ways that deliver new ideas. These questions drive the whole discussion between the participants and lead them to minimise the number of out of point proposals as well as the time consumed to bring new ideas upfront.

 

Substitute

Try to imagine the consequences of replacing part of the problem, product or process with something else. Changes can also concern people, things, places, emotions, ideas. New ideas may come up by looking for replacements.
Typical questions:

•    How can place, time, materials or people be substituted?
•    What can be substituted to make an improvement?
•    Swapping two things makes a difference?
 

Combine

Creativity thinking often, in order to reveal new ideas, involves the combination of unrelated ideas, goods, or services. In that case the creation of different products or processes can be achieved by the combination two or more parts of the product or the processes themselves
Typical questions:

•    What combinations of components can be made (e.g. materials, features, processes, people, products etc.)?
•    Can a synergy being build and where?
 

Adapt

You don’t have to “re-invent the wheel” each time you want to solve a problem. The adaptation of an existing idea/solution can be the answer to your dilemma.  
Typical questions:

•    Can I change a part of the product?
•    This change can be done in exchange for what?
•    In what degree can the characteristics of a component be changed?
 

Modify

Try to imagine the consequences of increasing or reducing in scale, changing the shape, modifying the attributes of the product. Try to imagine what will bring up the changing of some parts or whole of the current situation. Rearrange the subclasses of it in an unusual way often drives into alternative products/processes.
Typical questions:

•    What will occur if a feature or a component will be boosted or on the other hand downgraded?
•    What will occur by the modification in the hole or sectional of a process?
 

Put to Other Uses

Imagine how the current product or solution or process can be exploited in other uses, for other purposes. Reuse the existing knowledge to expand the affordances of it. Discover other markets for your product.
Typical questions:

•    Are there any other markets that the product can be used in?
•    Are there any new potential customers that might be able to use it?
 

Eliminate (or Minify)

Imagine the outcome of a possible elimination – minimization of various clusters of the process or specific parts of the product. Narrow your thoughts by gradually trimming the processes, the ideas, the objects to the way that leads to most important function, to the most substantial part.
Typical questions:

•    What will be the outcome of a possible removal of a specific component or part of it?
•    Is there any other way(s) beyond the “beaten track” to lead to the desirable solution?
 

Rearrange (or Reverse)

Imagine the side-effects or the result that a possible reverse, a different order, in the way a product is being manufactured or a process is being executed. Picture the outcome from different angles and come up with new ideas.
Typical questions:

•    What will happen if the process runs the other way round?
•    What can be done to achieve the exact opposite effect?
•    What are the sequences of reversing the way it is used?
•    What are the sequences of reversing the order it is done?
 

Types and structure of Groups

SCAMPER can be used either in person (which is not its strength) or in group brainstorming sessions in which there are time constrains and lack of innovative ideas. SCAMPER is actually a checklist of structured questions that promotes innovation and creativity leading stakeholders to think of changes that can be made to an existing idea (sometimes product) to create a new one. These proposed changes can be considered either as direct suggestions or as starting points for lateral and divergent thinking.

Consequences

The added value of using SCAMPER is that the specific method is ideal for being able to identify possible new products. Of course during the brainstorming session many of the ideas that are generated may be unfeasible or may not suit the equipment used by the manufacturer, but some ideas could be good starting points for discussion of new products (http://www.mycoted.com/SCAMPER).

Related Pattern

•    BRAINSTORMING [3], MIND MAPPING [4]

Examples

One well known example of the application of this technique is the case of MacDonald’s founder Ray Kroc.

We can easily identify many of the ideas he used based on the SCAMPER technique:

•    P = Put to other uses: selling restaurants and real estate instead of simply hamburgers
•    R=Rearrange: having customers pay before they eat
•    E=Eliminate: letting customers serve themselves, avoiding the use of waiters


Another example can be found in the book "Mind performance hacks, Tips & tools for overclocking your brain" from Ron Hale-Evans, O'Reilly, 2006, ISBN 0596101538, 9780596101534, in page 85 when the SCAMPER technique is being used in the traditional card game Rummy.

One more example can be found in Design and Discovery, Understanding the Design Process in which we can find a case study that students were introduced to the SCAMPER technique by examining an everyday item the water bottles: (http://www97.intel.com/en/DesignDiscovery/Curriculum/DesignProcess/Session2/S2_KeyConcepts.htm)

References

•    http://www.brainstorming.co.uk/tutorials/scampertutorial.html
•    http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCT_02.htm
•    http://litemind.com/scamper/

Related Patterns Thumbnails

[3] BRAINSTORMING
BRAINSTORMING is method of group interaction in both educational and business settings. It is designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution of a problem.

[4] MIND MAPPING
MIND MAPPING is a technique used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. This technique is being used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.
 

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