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SCAMPER Technique – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… or Reinvent

Ali Cox

Ali Cox

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I had a thought process last week that I wanted to share… I promise it ends with something useful!

I was initially reflecting on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day last week and thought about how the motto of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” can be applied to our work – our processes, tasks, and even people.

My mind then wandered to our current pandemic reality and how organizations will need to be better optimized in the future if they want to be able to overcome another dynamic shift like we are all currently experiencing.

From there, my mind immediately went to large-scale optimization, and even though we have an awesome solution for an enterprise transformation, I wanted to share a technique that anyone can use to help them determine what they can reduce, reuse, and recycle in the immediate future. (I hope you followed that thought process, lol!)

The SCAMPER Technique is a team brainstorming technique used to develop or improve products or services. SCAMPER is an acronym for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify/Magnify, Purpose, Eliminate/Minimize and Rearrange/Reverse.

  • Substitute: What can be replaced? (for example, components, materials, people)
    • Example: if you were making windows for a children’s playhouse, you might substitute glass with plastic (for safety).
  • Combine: What can be combined? (for example, other features, devices)
    • Example: cell phones have combined phone features with cameras.
  • Adapt: What can be added? (such as new elements or functions)
    • Example: cars now have built-in wifi.
  • Modify, Magnify, maximize, minimize: What can be modified? (for example, change the size, shape, color, or other attribute)
    • Example: sunglasses reduced in size for babies or small children.
  • Put to other use (purpose): Could you put the product to a different use, or use it in another industry?
    • Example: during COVID19 pandemic, coffee filters being used as filters in masks for faces.
  • Eliminate or minimize: What can be removed or simplified?
    • Example: removing cigarette lighters from cars (to be able to use the space for charging devices?).
  • Reverse, reengineer, or rearrange: What would happen if you reversed the product’s production process? What can be swapped or flipped?
    • Example: fast food restaurants rearranged the typical eat then pay model to pay then eat.

A great way to start implementing SCAMPER is to play a warmup game with it. Grab a few random objects: a funny hat, a belt, a chair, some craft items, etc. Gather your team in a room and throw the objects on the floor (or if virtual, show them on camera). Have them start to ask questions based on SCAMPER.

Now try it on your real project! Take a product, an aspect of a product, or a process and run it through SCAMPER. The answers will probably be diverse and will typically include ideas that are not practical, do not suit, or even are silly.  That’s ok and is actually good! The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible, and often the most brilliant ideas can come from them.

You might also find that you can reduce some of your work, reuse elements of what you already have, recycle ideas into a new purpose… or reinvent a solution based on the old.

— Ali

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About the Author

Ali Cox

Ali Cox

Alison (Ali) Cox, Netmind Lead Expert – Agile & Business Analysis, has experience since the mid-1980s in various areas, including business analysis, project methodology development and training, systems development (mainframe, client-server, and web), and telecommunications management. Alison began her career in the financial services area, and then moved into systems development for accounting systems. She has provided consulting and training in business analysis and project management for small companies to Fortune 500 corporations worldwide and speaks Spanish fluently. Alison is also a partner of TEMSS (Telecommunications Efficiency Management Strategies and Services), which provides telecommunications efficiency auditing and billing analysis services to clients in all areas of business across the United States. She completed her Master of Business Administration in MIS and Accounting from the University of Georgia. Connect with Ali on LinkedIn.

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