Tag: idea generation

Introducing SCAMPER

SCAMPER is an idea generation tool that can be used either solo or in groups. It is best used for generating ideas about something that you wish to modify in some way such as upgrade or enhance a current product or service. You need to create a ‘problem statement’ e.g. How might we make our car go faster?

SCAMPER is an acronym as defined below. Select a letter from the list and read its trigger word and associated questions. Ask yourself what new ideas do this word and questions suggest or try to associate the question and trigger word with your original statement. Record your ideas and then repeat this as many times as you want, each time picking a new letter from the SCAMPER list. Note you do not have to use the letters in sequence.

Substitute: what might you take away and put back in its place? What might you substitute, replace, exchange. Think of who else, what else, other ingredients, other material, different approach?

Combine: what two or more things might you put together? What could you combine this with, what sort of blend or alloy, assortment or ensemble?

Adapt: how might you change something to solve the problem? What could you do differently, what else is similar, have we done this before, what can I copy?

Modify, magnify, minify: what can be made bigger or smaller? How would things change if the object were made bigger or smaller. What could be increased or reduced in size or which attributes could be enhanced or diminished?

Put to other uses: what might be used in a different way? Can this be used for different purposes, does its properties suggest other uses, do its properties such as size or weight suggest other uses, can it be used in another context?

Eliminate: what might you get rid of? Can you leave something out, condense or concentrate, remove parts, make lighter?

Rearrange or reverse: what might you mix up or move around? Can you reverse roles, turn upside down (backwards or inside out), change perspective, alter timing, change objectives?

Your recorded ideas may themselves be combined or investigated further if necessary. Note these may not be sensible ideas (although they could be) and may just suggest ways forward for you or your business.

Calibrating your idea generation pipeline

Do you have an idea generation pipeline? Most large organisations talk about their ‘sales pipeline’. Without knowing all of the details we understand that a) the pipeline should produce a stream of sales b) the pipeline should ideally be full. Linked to this we also understand that to produce a certain volume of sales we need a given number of contacts, sales appointments or exhibitions to go to. To increase sales we simply tweak our pipeline and hey presto, something happens.

When it comes to ideas we are not quite so methodical. Ideas are random and come along whenever they feel like it, right? Well yes and no. A large number of random ideas will at some stage begin to feel less random but the actual ideas (or quality) might still be so.

Imagine a business based on ideas. DIY suppliers such as tool manufacturers consistently seem to be trying to catch our eyes with drills, screwdrivers, unbreakable gardening implements etc. Your sales and marketing department may tell you that to keep ahead of the competition you need to have 5 new products each year in production and ready for distribution. Now let us work from the other end. A typical idea generation session might generate say 1500 ideas of which 150 might be worth considering and 15 worth trying to mock up or create prototypes. This might lead to only 1 product. At least you know that you might need to run 4 such sessions or create over 6000 wacky ideas.

Then you must allow for some sort of customer feedback, production set up etc which means that your year timeframe has now become 6 months! At least if you can calibrate your processes you can actually plan getting an idea from conception to customer, and with feedback built into the system you will get better at it. Then, when your Sales Director says ‘we need a new product for this market, now’ you can estimate the effort and cost required and tell him how long he will have to wait. Remember, miracles we can cope with but the impossible takes a little longer!

The same concept can be applied to services although the ratio of wacky ideas to actual services will be different. Also, because there is little manufacturing involved, services can be brought to the market place quicker.

Creative techniques – selecting the right one

You, your staff or even your boss have been on a course or bought a self help book that described some creative techniques. You have tried one or two and they sort of worked, but not as you had hoped. Or maybe they did not work at all. Why could this be?

Sometimes Creativity just doesn’t work for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The problem scenario or situation has not been properly defined
  • The facilitator does not have the correct skills
  • The participants are unwilling

Or more than likely the wrong techniques have been selected. Alas you cannot use brainstorming for everything! So how should you go about categorising and selecting techniques?
The following ideas might be useful:

Group/Solo working – who is going to use this technique? Will you use it for one person or a group?

Converge/Diverge – are you looking to focus on, or identify just one possibility or are you wishing to actively generate many options or ideas?

Exploration/description – does the technique allow you to just explore or perhaps describe the situation more fully?

Reality checking/planning – you know what the possibilities are but you need to check that your ideas are feasible or to set out some course of action.

Idea generation/building – this is divergent but are you generating los of ideas or taking a smaller number and building upon them?

If we want to classify Reverse Brainstorming  then we could classify it as Solo or group working, convergent, exploring, idea generation. A Cartoon Storyboard could be classified as Solo or Group working, convergent, planning or building.

So how should you select a technique? Often we wish to perform several actions one after the other but for the sake of simplicity lets imagine you need some ideas about how to beef up your sales and marketing effort. You could work either on your own or in a group, you simply wish to generate a large number of ideas in a short space of time. Something like Reverse Brainstorming or a Nominal Group Technique might be the answer. If, however, you needed to explore or describe your current situation before moving on to generate ideas then the above techniques would not be ideal and you might find a modelling, drawing or even visualisation technique more useful.

Go on, try it! You might even find this Creativity stuff useful.

Creativity Resources

There are many hits to my website from people searching for creativity resources. Goodness knows what they are actually looking for. Some may be looking for resources for training and workshops but many appear to be looking for a list of tools and materials that are mandatory or desirable for getting Creativity into an organisation.

So what is the answer to the question ‘What do I need to be creative?’ For a perfect creative situation the answer is that you need absolutely nothing as any resources can be created from scratch. The real truth is that organisations are not patient and do like to get a head start. Also the mix of human resources may not be ideal so here is the list that you need:

  • External stimulus or facilitation
  • An agreed set of objectives
  • Internal champions/creative catalysts
  • An initial embryonic framework for promoting creativity
  • Time and space for employees to be creative
  • Enlightened managers who will actively ‘un manage’ creativity
  • A light touch audit method
  • A simple but effective library of techniques that individuals can use
  • A method of capturing, storing and retrieving ideas and feedback

Seeing the above list you may be tempted to ‘go it alone’ and some may find that they succeed however the following should be borne in mind:

  • Internally led idea generation initiatives often fail or do not deliver as expected
  • Externally led idea generation initiatives often fail or do not deliver as expected
  • Simply running creativity training courses will have no beneficial effect on your bottom line
  • Leaving creativity and innovation solely in the hand of your HR department will often consign them to the wilderness

The moral is to get some good advice, target your scarce resources and do not commit to anyone who wishes you to create a long lasting dependency on them.

Innovation – the way it works

This is not the definitive guide to innovation. It is just one way, and it works. The process outlined below is for a single innovation project, not continuous innovation. That is a step too far for a newsletter.

To start with there will be some sort of startup event in which key stakeholders are seen to give approval. The traditional rallying call to troops is not appropriate here. Next you are likely to take stock of where you are in terms of skills and capabilities. Our Innovation Toolkit can help you to do this. The ‘end of the beginning’ is to set up the necessary infrastructure, define objectives etc.

If there are any skills or capability gaps then these need to be covered with appropriate training before entering a research phase. This includes market research, feasibility, trend spotting, reviewing legislation etc.

Next comes the idea generation phase. Although it sounds like chaos, the aim is to produce a number of options for products, services or processes but to then filter them down to a manageable number.

There will then be a period where ideas are prototyped, tested and refined. At this point (and not before) you can produce a plan for your new business venture and work with production and operations people to implement and roll out your idea.

Although you will be sitting down pleased with yourself at this point you need to do one more thing, ensure that the lessons learned (from success as well as failure) are captured for future use.

The pleasing thing about all this is that it is possible to successfully plan your innovation project. Good luck with yours.