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The SCAMPER Technique

Abstract

Ideas are not often plucked out of thin air. The SCAMPER brainstorming technique uses a set of directed questions to resolve a problem (or meet an opportunity). It can also turn a tired idea into something new and different.

Keywords

  • Problem solving
  • Practical creativity
  • Brainstorming
  • Lateral thinking

In a Word Ideas are not often plucked out of thin air. The SCAMPER brainstorming technique uses a set of directed questions to resolve a problem (or meet an opportunity). It can also turn a tired idea into something new and different.

Rationale

A problem is a situation, condition, or issue that remains unresolved and makes it difficult to accomplish a desired objective. A problem is perceived when an individual, group, or organization becomes aware of a significant difference between what is desired and what actually is. Trying to find a solution to a problem is known as problem solving .

Problem solving is the process by which a situation is analyzed, a workable solution is determined, and corrective action is taken. The common milestones of problem solving are to:

  • Define (or clarify) the problem.

  • Analyze causes.

  • Generate ideas (identify alternatives).

  • Weigh up ideas (assess alternatives).

  • Make a decision (select an alternative).

  • Determine next steps to implement the solution.

  • Evaluate whether the problem was solved or not.

The SCAMPER Technique

Every problem invites a solution and, needless to say, there are numerous problem-solving techniques.Footnote 1 The SCAMPER technique, for one, uses a set of directed, idea-spurring questions to suggest some addition to, or modification of, something that already exists.Footnote 2 It has also received much attention as a learning tool that fosters awareness, drive, fluency, flexibility, and originality. The stimulus comes from being asked to answer queries that one would not normally pose. The changes that SCAMPER stands for are:

  • S—Substitute (e.g., components, materials, people)

  • C—Combine (e.g., mix, combine with other assemblies or services, integrate)

  • A—Adapt (e.g., alter, change function, use part of another element)

  • M—Magnify/Modify (e.g., increase or reduce in scale, change shape, modify attributes)

  • P—Put to other uses

  • E—Eliminate (e.g., remove elements, simplify, reduce to core functionality)

  • R—Rearrange/Reverse (e.g., turn inside out or upside down)

Table 33.1 Help guide to the SCAMPER technique

Caveat

The SCAMPER Technique is used to produce original ideas. The creative process thrives on preparation, concentration, incubation, illumination, and verification (production testing). In organizations, its fruitful application depends on the existence of an enabling environment. There are, of course, personal blocksFootnote 3 to creativity but these can often be removed. Supervisors who do foster creativity listen, are willing to absorb the risks borne by their subordinates, are comfortable with half-developed ideas, do not dwell on past mistakes, expect subordinates to succeed, capitalize on the strengths of subordinates, enjoy their jobs, and can make quick decisions. They must then help sell ideas to senior management . This involves assessing the “sellability” of ideasFootnote 4 and developing persuasive arguments.Footnote 5

Notes

  1. 1.

    They include Affinity Diagrams (organizing ideas into common themes); the Ansoff Matrix (understanding the different risks of different options); Appreciation (extracting maximum information from facts); Appreciative Inquiry (solving problems by looking at what is going right); the Boston Matrix (focusing effort to give the greatest returns); Brainstorming (generating a large number of ideas for the solution of a problem); Cause-and-Effect Diagrams (identifying the possible causes of problems); Core Competence Analysis (get ahead, stay ahead); Critical Success Factors (identifying the things that really matter for success); the Five Whys Technique (quickly getting to the root of a problem); Flow Charts (understanding how a process works); The Greiner Curve (surviving the crises that come with growth); Lateral Thinking (changing concepts and perception); the Marketing Mix and the 4 Ps (understanding how to position a market offering); the McKinsey 7Ss (making sure that all the parts of an organization work in harmony); PEST (Political, Economic, Sociocultural, and Technological) Analysis (understanding the big picture); Porter's Five Forces (understanding where power lies); the Reframing Matrix (examining problems from distinct viewpoints); Risk Analysis; Systems Diagrams (understanding the way factors affect one another); Root Cause Analysis (identifying the root causes of problems or events); SWOT Analysis (analyzing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats); and USP (Unique Selling Propositions) Analysis (crafting competitive edge).

  2. 2.

    The principles of the SCAMPER technique were first formally suggested by Alex Osborn and later arranged by Bob Eberle as a mnemonic in 1991 to increase interest in the perceptive, imaginative, and creative abilities of children.

  3. 3.

    I do not want to look foolish. I do not want to fail. I am not creative. This is not my area (e.g., skill, style, job, etc.). I am not paid to have fun!.

  4. 4.

    Will the idea work? Will people accept it? Is it timely?

  5. 5.

    This requires that the proponents relate the idea to a recognized need, appeal to positive values, anticipate objections, get others involved, and advertise their credibility.

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Correspondence to Olivier Serrat .

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Serrat, O. (2017). The SCAMPER Technique. In: Knowledge Solutions. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-0983-9_33

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