SCAMPER is a tool that was created to help creatives and innovators come up with new ideas. This tool helps you generate ideas for new products and services by encouraging you to think about how to improve existing ones.

When and why is this tool used?

Use this tool when you’re generating new business models, trying to develop a new product or service, or adding new features to your existing product or service. This is where creative brainstorming techniques like SCAMPER can help by encouraging you to come up with fresh ideas and think about how you could improve on existing ones.

Full Description: 

SCAMPER is a method you can use to ignite your creativity and help you overcome any challenge you may be facing in your business. SCAMPER is based on the assumption that everything new is a modification of something that already exists. It uses a list of probing questions to help you reach the creativity within.

Each letter in the acronym represents a different way you can use to alter an existing product and come up with new features:

  • S = Substitute
  • C = Combine
  • A = Adapt
  • M = Modify
  • P = Put to Other Uses
  • E = Eliminate
  • R = Reverse

How is this tool used?

Step 1: Download the SCAMPER Template 

Step 2: Write down the initial idea

Step 3: SCAMPER

Now, ask the questions about your challenge using the SCAMPER acronym to guide you. Come up with as many questions and answers as you can.

 S = Substitute.  What can I replace in the composition, the material, or the appearance of the product?

Example: Using plastic plates and eating utensils instead of traditional ceramic plates and metal utensils to save cost.

C = Combine. What can I combine with the product to improve it?

Example: Siemens was the first to combine cameras with mobile phones, and that revolutionized the way we use our phones till now.

A = Adapt. Can I adapt the product to something else or can I copy something from other sectors?

Example: The first lightweight foldable baby strollers were adapted from the plane’s retractable landing wheels.

M = Modify. What can I magnify, minimize or modify about the product?

Example: Soda companies offer you different bottle sizes to fit individual, family, and party needs. This way, they made the same product appeal to more customer segments.

P = Put to other uses. Can I use the product for something else?

Example: Some products didn’t get any success until they were put to a completely different use than what was originally meant for them. Children’s Play-Doh was first an unpleasant white compound used for wallpaper cleaning. It was about to go extinct because people started installing easily cleaned wallpaper and didn’t need it anymore. Then its manufacturers decided to add some colors to it and sell it for kids to play with.

E = Eliminate. What can I eliminate from my product to make it sell more?

Example: Juice Manufacturers offered sugar and preservative-free juices thus managed to attract a whole new segment of health-oriented consumers.

R = Reverse. Is there anything I can reverse or rearrange, turn inside out or do in a different order?

Example: Clothes that can be worn both “out” and “inside out” are a clear example of the reverse step.

 

Analyze the new ideas

After coming up with different ideas, look at the answers that you came up with. Does any idea stand out as a suitable solution? Could you use any of them to create a new product, or develop an existing one? If any of your ideas seem doable, then you can explore them further.

 

Hints for using this tool

Some of the ideas may be impractical or may not suit your circumstances. Don't worry about this – the aim is to generate as many ideas as you can.

 

Case Study

A classic example is McDonald's’ success story. Looking back, it’s easy to identify many of the ideas they used through the SCAMPER lens:

  • S- Substitute: Mcdonald’s replaced the traditional potato chips with its now world-famous French fries. In the MENA region, they modified their sandwich by using Arabian flatbread bread instead of the traditional bun to match the Arab Culture.
  • C– Combine: Mcdonald’s partnered with Disney to encourage children to buy happy meals by giving them a free toy with the meal they order.
  • A– Adapt: Their Drive-Thru concept is inspired by the idea of a fast Formula 1 pit stop, where the racing car stops during a race for refueling, new tires, and repairs.
  • M– Magnify \ Minimize \ Modify: Several franchise owners wanted to expand the basic menu, their solution was to make the burger larger and that's how the Big Mac sandwich came out.
  • P– Put to other uses: To develop other sources of income, McDonald’s invested in the real estate business. They would lease and develop a site, then release it to the franchisee, who would have to pay rent as well as franchise fees. Today, 10 percent of the company’s revenue comes from rentals.
  • E– Eliminate: In the 2000s, they introduced the $5 menu where you can get elements of a combo meal individually way cheaper
  • R– Rearrange/reverse: Mcdonald’s introduced a new consumer experience by having them pay first then eat.

Pros and Cons

SCAMPER is very useful for brainstorming and building creative blocks. You can recycle any subject or idea into something else by transforming it in some fashion using the SCAMPER questions.

However, make sure that you do not waste time arguing with your team over validating the individual ideas. Instead, focus on coming up with as many ideas as possible. The more ideas you have the greater the chance of a great idea to emerge.

Click on the attachment below to download the SCAMPER template.

a photo with "scamper" text

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