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How To Invent (Almost) Anything > 1. Analytic Invention > 1.11. SCAMPER

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This acronym comes from a revision by Robert Eberle in 1972 of list drawn up by brainstorming originator Alex Osborn to help stimulate new ideas. The letters stand for:

  • Substitute?
  • Combine?
  • Adapt?
  • Modify?
  • Put to other uses?
  • Eliminate?
  • Rearrange?

These gives a wide range of alternatives and you can substitute for people, places, units, materials, processes, methods or purposes. For example, if you wanted to improve on a bicycle seat, you could substitute foam for the springs or rain-resistant materials for the seat.

Combinations of people, places, units, materials, processes, methods or purposes can be used. Maybe the bicycle seat could be combined with the pedals, so rocking of the body contributes to forward motion.

In adaptation you can copy from other ideas, nature, people or principles. Perhaps you could adapt an armchair for the bicycle so you could ride in comfort.

Modification can change size, speed, frequency, smell, position, weight, number, or any other variable. You can magnify to see the detail or enlarge, or minify to reduce, streamline or make small. Perhaps with a minimal seat, the bicycle rider would suffer less chafing of the thighs.

You can eliminate parts of the problem or the solution, time, effort, costs. What if there was no bicycle seat? For a sprint-racing cycle, this could save weight. If the seat were a part of the frame, you could eliminate manufacturing time and cost.

Rearrangement can be done with parts and patterns, time sequence or speed. Perhaps you put the seat on before you got on the bicycle, incorporating a snugly fitting seat into a pair of racing shorts.

You can combine any or all of these. For example, when redesigning a lighting display, you could:

  • Substitute glass with plastic
  • Combine the socket with the filter
  • Adapt it to fit a range of fluorescent lamps
  • Modify the shape to expand with lamp length
  • Put the lamp to another use, such as providing local heating
  • Eliminate visible cabling
  • Rearrange the layout to fit the switch into a hidden handle

Other logical/analytic tools:

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