It's pretty much useless when people tell you to "Go off and brainstorm- dream up some wild and crazy ideas!" Expecting your team to do a magical job of ideating rarely turns out well.  The first reason this doesn't work is because creativity works best with constraints and guidelines. And second, because without some guardrails you will wind up with all of the extroverted people dominating the conversation.

Here's a tip for brainstorming. The SCAMPER mnemonic is one that designers often use to figure out ways to disrupt a process. I came across it initially among fashion designers. The tool helps you exercise better ways to frame a problem because you use each letter as a prompt to frame a new question about the product or service you are trying to innovate. It focuses on adding and subtracting elements to innovate a process, product, service or experience.

Here are examples of questions you could ask and steps you could take:


Electric cars are a result of experimenting with a different energy source.

  • What is a different material or color we could add?  
  • What if we tried this in a different language?
  • What would happen if we used this at a different point in the process?
  • How might things turn out if we changed the location (a different part of the building or country or part of the world) than where we typically do this?;  


Smart phones have combined a phone, word processing and a calendar service.   

  • How could you recombine elements of this product or service?
  • What if we integrated different skill sets into this process?
  • What if we asked both experts and novices to work on this together?


Coca-Cola has adapted to health conscious consumers by launching Disani water.

  • Adaptation is situational. Think about how you could throw out the rule book and adjust the ways the product is delivered; or slightly shift the ways you sell the product- instead of through brick & mortar, add in more e-commerce to the mix.
  • Identify what could be tweaked.
  • Experiment with different times of day.


Nike's knit technology has modified the base material of their sneakers away from non-wovens.

  • What if we used a portion of the service or process instead of the entire thing?
  • Consider micro-sizing an element of the product or experience.
  • What about if you macro-sized the current use or application?
  • Perhaps you speed up or slow down a portion of the process. 

Put to Another Use

Ubitricity uses the existing infrastructure from light poles as charging stations for electric cars. 

  • Where adaptation is more incremental, "put to another use" can be more dramatic.
  • Think about applying lateral thinking and look at your product, service or experience through the lens of a different sector: tech, food or education- for example.


Travel apps like Kayak allow the consumer to go direct in purchasing travel by eliminating the travel agent.

  • Elimination is valued in the Lean and Six Sigma processes to make a process more efficient.
  • Identify redundancies and get rid of them.
  • How could you make the product lighter or faster?
  • What would happen if you simplified the process?


Unconferences are successful convenings because the audience members become the subject matter experts.

  • What would happen if you changed the order of events?
  • What if roles were swapped?
  • What happens if instead of doing things top down, you do them bottom up?
  • What about going right to left, instead of left to right? Or turning things inside out?

The next time you need a way to jumpstart an ideation process, try applying the SCAMPER method-  and encourage a "sky's the limit!" approach.