I recently had the opportunity to try out a new method for brainstorming ideas, the SCAMPER method. It is a particularly neat method of brainstorming and idea generation that was quite different from what I’ve done in the past and surprisingly fun.
Over the years, I’ve done many brainstorming sessions for new idea generation. These are usually the standard ones that you may be familiar with, where a group of people sit in a room and throw out ideas. I’ve seen this to work, but I’ve also seen this to be less successful as it can become dominated by a few loud voices or the leader. The SCAMPER method is different.
The SCAMPER method
In the SCAMPER method, a set of questions are asked. The word SCAMPER is a mnemonic that stands for:
Put to another use
These questions are posed for an already existing product or service. The goal is to answer them via modifications of the existing product or service. An example question would be “what other fields of expertise could you use it [the product or service] for?”
The SCAMPER brainstorming was a different way of brainstorming than I had done in the past. The SCAMPER method had a rigid framework which not only gave me a starting point, but also gave me boundaries for the ideas that were to be generated. By having this controlled brainstorming method, I could come up with many ideas in a short amount of time, without going into unproductive directions. The goal was to come up with as many ideas as we could in the 30 minute window given to us. The generated ideas were then consolidated with others’ to refine them in further steps.
The confusing part that actually turns out to be useful
The one challenge I encountered with the SCAMPER method was that some of the questions that came up did not apply (or I couldn’t see how they applied) to my topic. This made it confusing to think about ideas for these questions, and I found myself stumped and wasting time while I tried to wrap my head around what the question meant as it related to my topic.
One example of such a question was “what if you put the last bit at the start?” I couldn’t come up with a way to apply this to my topic. Instead of simply moving on, I spent a (relatively) lot of time thinking about it until I decided I should move on. For this method, having seen that some questions don’t apply, I encourage any user to skip these types of questions quickly, rather than waste time. Then if they came up again, perhaps the ideas that I came up with using other questions will help me see how the question might apply.
Overall a constructive useful way to come up with innovative ideas
Overall the method was helpful as it forced me to think outside of my normal boundaries for innovation for LED lighting (my focus at the time). By stepping outside of my comfort zone, and within a time limit, my creative thinking was driven in new directions and towards new models. The end result was a large number of innovation ideas that could be explored further to drive innovation for the product. And, it was fun too.