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Using SCAMPER For Business Brainstorming

written by: Heidi Wiesenfelder•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 8/28/2009

As a business owner or leader you will often have the need to come up with ideas on your own or in conjunction with people you rely on. You can boost your brainstorming power by using a tool such as SCAMPER as a brainstorming framework.

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    Use the SCAMPER Technique to Solve Problems and Create New Ideas

    Perhaps you are exploring new product or service ideas, or maybe you need to decide how to fix a problem with an existing product, service or process. In either case, SCAMPER can help you. SCAMPER is an acronym which stands for the seven different techniques it encompasses.

    Track your brainstorming ideas without judgment Each technique provides a way of thinking about your situation a little differently, to help you come up with new ways of doing things. Using any or all of the SCAMPER techniques, you can brainstorm ways of achieving your goal. Depending on your objective, some of them may be more useful than others.

    Remember that during the initial brainstorming phase you should accept all ideas, and hold off on evaluation and judgment of the options.

    Substitute: Think of various ways that you can substitute one thing for another. Can you use a different type of material in a process or product? Can different people perform one or more steps? Can work be conducted in a different location or using supplies? Maybe one feature could be substituted for another. Look at each aspect of what you currently do and identify items, steps, and components that could be substituted for others.

    Combine: Consider ways that you might combine items that are currently separate or functions that are usually handled independently. Perhaps you could combine several products into one. Or maybe several parts of a process could be combined into one activity.

    Adapt: Explore ways that you could adapt an existing product, component, feature, process, or resource to alter or expand its function. Can you add to an existing department’s role, or adapt its role to meet evolving business needs? What changes can you make to a product that would render it more useful to a customer or make it more attractive to a larger variety of customers?

    Modify: Determine which aspects of your product or service you could tweak to better achieve your goal. Consider adding or removing process steps, modifying product design, or simplifying service offerings.

    Put to other use: Think about other ways that your product could be used. How might you repurpose it to serve a different type of customer? How could the service you offer help people outside of your usual client base? What unmet need might your offering fulfill?

    Eliminate: Seek ways to eliminate the causes of excess cost or dissatisfaction. Eliminate unnecessary process steps, perhaps by improving a prior step or automating an activity. Reduce features in an overly-complex product, or even eliminate a product that requires too great a commitment of resources for the return you receive.

    Rearrange: Consider rearranging process steps to improve efficiency and leverage resources. Explore options for physically rearranging your workspace or retail establishment to better meet your needs and your customers’ expectations. Rearrange the parts of a product to alter its appearance of streamline functionality.

    Once you have a substantial list of ideas for reaching your objective, you can begin to assess them for feasibility, cost, timeframe, and other criteria that you may have established. If you have difficulty making a final decision, you can use a decision-making tool to assist you. Check out my article, Guide to Six Sigma Decision-Making Tools, for a list of decision-making techniques used as part of Six Sigma programs in larger companies.