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The Design Space: SCAMPER Ideation in Product Design

By Carlos M. Rodriguez posted 10-01-2021 14:58

Product Design Develop Tools

Read time:
 4 minutes

The kHUB Curator Team members have each been assigned a BoK section to own. This includes seeking, editing and sharing content related to that section.  The curators are also sharing their perspective of various sub-sections of their chapter and contributing personal examples, experience, or related articles corresponding to the subject matter.

Chapter 4 Insights # 5– Product Design & Development Tools

“I try not to think out of the box anymore, but on its edge, its corner, its flap, and under its bar code.”

— Clint Runge


A recent study by KPMG and the Innovation Leader (June, 2021) states a slight growth around incremental innovations compared to radical or transformational ones from 2019 to date. However, managers expect to revert this and provide two thirds of their resources to adjacent and transformational projects in the near future and downshift their incremental activity to just one-third in the innovation portfolio. In addition, the study highlights a tilt towards organic (internal) innovation activity in several industry sectors such as technology, healthcare, transportation, services and energy. The present pandemic is testing the organization’s ability to be agile, the level of necessary autonomy provided to NPD teams, the use of analytic approaches to identify disruption and carry out competitive analyses, efficient integration with innovation ecosystems, and the exploration of “ideas in sprint mode” to identify sustainable value creation opportunities.

Ideation is a critical stage in any product or service development process. It is the transition between the empathize and define phases of the design thinking process to innovation and the concrete action prototyping and testing phases. During the ideation stage NPD teams engage in divergent (generating ideas) and emergent thinking (building upon initial ideas to make connections and spark new ideas) approaches conducive to solve the identified problem.

A point of view (POV) statement specifies the challenge to tackle in the design thinking process. As the team engage in the ideation stage, its members formulate “How might we” questions (actionable prompts) intended to generate and merge ideas as they populate the solution space (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Creating the solution space with SCAMPER. By applying “How might we…?” inquiries to the verb actions from SCAMPER, the NPD team define and combine ideas to build the solution space.

Source: The author


The SCAMPER is a lateral thinking method that helps you generate ideas to improve existing products and services by asking questions around several areas of inquiry. These questions constitute a “new lens” or “perspective” and use “action verbs” to provoke fresh ideas, novelty thinking, and new insights. SCAMPER is an acronym formed from; Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Reverse. Some NPD teams consider SCAMPER a learning tool that fosters awareness, drive, fluency, flexibility, and originality in addition to be an ideation method.

SCAMPER has shown to be effective as the following examples suggest (Source: Sloane, Paul, Innovation Management).

  1. If you were making spectacles then you could substitute plastic lenses for glass (incremental innovation) or you could substitute contact lenses for spectacles (radical innovation).
  2. A mobile phone technology was combined with a digital camera and then an MP3 player.
  3. The roll-on deodorant was an idea adapted from the ballpoint pen.
  4. A low-cost airline like Ryanair has minimized (or eliminated) many elements of service.
  5. De Beers put industrial diamonds to other use when they launched engagement rings and
  6. Dell Computers and Amazon eliminated the intermediary.

The method requires your team to have a clear statement of the problem (point of view in the language of design thinking), as well as, an identification of the persona(s) and an existing product or service. The sets of questions (seven filters) used by SCAMPER are posted in several brainstorming sessions (see Figure 2) and grouped as follows:

Substitute: What can I substitute, replace, or change in my product or service process?

Combine: Can I combine parts, components, or functions, to create new content and the perception of value in the user?

Adapt: Can I change parts, characteristics of the product or process and/or adapt, borrow from other products?

Modify: Can I make larger, smaller, shorter, lighter, stronger, or exaggerate parts, sections, process steps in the product? This inquiry includes magnifying or minifying elements to achieve specific results.

Put to Another Use: How can I put this product to other uses? Are there other ways to use this product as is or modified?

Eliminate: What can I eliminate or simplify without altering the functions in this product or the benefits it provides?

Rearrange: What can I reorder, accommodate, change or reverse in this product? Can I sequence steps, events in the user experience funnel?


Figure 2: SCAMPER needs to be implemented through brainstorming sessions that act upon the seven filters of the method.

Source: The author


Firms see crises as opportunities to build the future. Going on the offense requires great doses of creativity and ideation. From iRobot, Coca Cola, Synta Pharmaceuticals to Intuit, CitiBank, and Autodesk, these organizations believe in incubating ideas from within, as well as, from crowdsourcing and end-users. Ideation is at the front of the new product/service development process. Promising ideas when identified and enriched become good product concepts that eventually deliver top and bottom-line growth. Adopting sound and insightful methodologies that NPD teams can implement to expand and enrich the design space is a must. SCAMPER as a lateral thinking inquiry seems to contribute to the ideation capability of diverse organizations and deserves a trial.

Further Reading

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (2008), Flow: The psychology of Optimal Experience, Harper Perennial, New York, NY.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (2013), Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Harper Perennial, New York, NY.

De Bono, Edward, (2015), Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step, Harper Perennial, New York, NY.

Mattimore, Bryan W. (2012), Idea Stormers: How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs, Jossey Bass, San Francisco, CA.

Michalko, Michael (2006), Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-thinking Techniques, Ten Speed Press, New York, NY.

Polya, G and John H. Conway (2014), How to Solve It, Princeton, NJ.


About the Author

Carlos Rodriguez

Carlos M Rodriguez is an Associate Professor of Marketing and Quantitative Methods and Director of the Center for the Study of Innovation Management, CSIM in the College of Business, Delaware State University, USA. His publications have appeared in the Journal of Business Research, Journal of Business to Business Marketing, Journal of International Marketing, International Marketing Review, Management Decision, International Journal of Business and Social Sciences, Journal of Business and Leadership, and Journal of Higher Education Research & Development among others and several conference proceedings. Currently, he serves in the editorial board of several journals. His research interests are in the areas of entrepreneurship and strategic capabilities, luxury branding and experiences, product design and new product development teams, and relationship marketing. He recently published the book entitled Product Design and Innovation: Analytics for Decision Making centered in the design techniques and methodologies vital to the product design process. He is engaged in several international educational, research, and academic projects, as well, as, international professional activities.

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