The need for business innovation is certainly not a new concept. However, successive global and local crises have caused many entrepreneurs to appreciate the importance of being able to respond and change to an evolving situation. The way employees connect to how customers receive their products needs to adapt to this new reality. This is not necessarily a negative situation for business and can be an opportunity to improve your solution or business model.
Change is difficult, especially if you’ve done things a certain way for an extended period of time. Some concepts of change are easy enough. Restaurants stopped serving diners and started making deliveries. Other changes are not so obvious. To help you come up with alternative solutions for your business, I recommend the SCAMPER method.
This method is similar to what is known as Design Thinking. Whilst the latter is centralised around the human factor, SCAMPER puts the problem, whatever it may be, at the centre. As a result, with this method, you can come up with alternative solutions for your products or services, staff management, marketing, and more.
In this guide, I will define and explain the SCAMPER method. Whilst this is an exercise you can perform yourself, you can also seek academic support to help you be creative and innovative. If you’re fortunate to be in Malta, you can join one of several courses offered by The Edward Debono Institute for Design & Development of Thinking.
SCAMPER is an acronym for:
- Put to a better use
Consider the product, service, process or offer that you are putting under the SCAMPER method. Begin by breaking it down into different parts, such as product features or process steps. You might want to jot down these parts on a Business Model Canvas, taking each part and seeing if you can substitute it. If your business is a vehicle manufacturer, for example, you could try replacing the material of the chassis with a lighter, more fuel-efficient one. Similarly, a business which produces spectacles might want to consider substituting plastic lenses for glass ones or vice versa.
A big part of innovation is combining existing solutions and merging them so that they benefit from each other’s features. The smaller solutions might look dull and may be independent of each other, but combined, they may result in a revolutionary idea. One of the best examples of a successful combination involves cameras and mobile phones. In fact, mobile phones have today been combined with an entire range of other solutions, including MP3 players, calendars, notebooks, and watches.
You can pick up an existing product or process from one environment and put it into another without any significant changes. The infamous Apollo 13 mission is a perfect example where the astronauts and ground control staff had to adapt seemingly unconnected objects to form an air scrubber. Sometimes, not adapting means business failure. Consider Blockbuster, which probably never imagined that online streaming would mean the end of VHS and DVD rentals. What you might not know is that Netflix actually started out as a DVD rental service, but quickly adapted by listening to the market.
Modify might not be the best word to describe this step, but it’s the closest one that fits into the SCAMPER method. Put the individual parts under the microscope and see what happens when you exaggerate them, by making them much bigger or smaller than normal. Are certain parts more or less important than others? In practice, modifying a part of the business can result in the decrease of a product range to just the core, or expanding the best-selling item into an entire range. For ideas on how to modify a solution, have a look at Smarties.
Put to better use
There have been several occasions where putting things to better use was sufficient to create an innovative idea. Just like adapting to new circumstances, adapting an existing product or service can open up opportunities in new markets. In this current pandemic, the company behind Remdesivir put its product to better use in the treatment of Covid-19. De Beers is another example of putting something to better use. The company took industrial diamonds used to cut materials, put them on a small circular metal frame and began selling them as engagement rings.
Sometimes, less is truly more! When you look at your product or process you might be surprised to see just how much of it is extra fluff. Does your mobile phone really need 20 or so default applications? Does a request for holiday leave really need to go through five layers of management before being approved? Eliminating unnecessary steps or entire processes completely could make you more efficient, reducing your costs and lowering lead times. Dell Computers, for example, eliminated the retailer, selling directly to consumers. Apple eliminated the optical DVD drive, making the MacBook Air lighter.
What if you were to see your product or service from another point of view? Sometimes, this could be as easy as holding a product in a different way or asking people for their point of view. McDonald’s is certainly a great example of reversing a process. The fast-food giant changed the sale process, inviting clients to start by paying for their food, and then eating it. This and other initiatives helped speed up the time it took clients to place their orders and get their food.