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The SCAMPER technique (created by Bob Eberle and written about by Michael Michalko) in his excellent book, Thinkertoys, will assist you in thinking of changes you can make to an existing product to create a new one via a checklist, these can either be used directly or as starting points for lateral thinking.
The changes SCAMPER stands for are:
S - Substitut - components, materials, people
C - Combine - mix, combine with other assemblies or services, integrate
A - Adapt - alter, change function, use part of another element
M - Modify - increase or reduce in scale, change shape, modify attributes (e.g. colour)
P - Put to another use
E - Eliminate - remove elements, simplify, reduce to core functionality
R - Reverse - turn inside out or upside down.
For instance, imagine that you are a producer of computers and printers, and you are looking for new products. SCAMPER would give you:
Substitute – use of high tech materials for specific markets – use high-speed components? Combine – integrate computer and printer, printer and scanner Adapt – put high quality ink in printer, use high quality paper Modify – produce different shape, size and design of printer and computer Put to another use – printers as photocopies or fax machines Eliminate – eliminate speakers, colour screens, colour ink etc… Reverse – make computer desks as well as computers and printers, or computer chairs etc…
By using SCAMPER in this instance we have been able to identify possible new products. Many of the ideas may be unfeasible or may not suit the equipment used by the manufacturer, but some ideas could be good starting points for discussion of new products.
See also the modified version SCAMMPERR