Several idea checklists have been developed to enhance creativity. These involve asking a series of questions about how we might use something that we already have. For example, one checklist of idea-spurring questions is called SCAMPER (Substitute? Combine? Adapt? Modify or magnify? Put to other uses? Eliminate or reduce? Reverse or rearrange?).
Here’s an example of adapting: Clarence Birdseye worked as a fur trader in Labrador before World War I. He noted that Inuit preserved fish by quick-freezing and that the fish, when thawed, were flaky and moist. Birdseye adapted this process to make quick-frozen food available to the general public. This replaced the old slow freeze process that left food dry and tasteless. The huge success of quick frozen food led to the creation of General Foods.
Kiichiro Toyoda, the founder of Toyota, sought ways to eliminate large inventories and the need for warehouses. American supermarkets fascinated him, and he noted that they require vast amounts of food that can’t be stored on site because of spoilage and space considerations. When supplies run low, the staff contacts the appropriate supplier and items arrive “just in time.” Toyota adopted this concept and streamlined its operation, eliminating waste and warehouses and reducing costs dramatically. Toyota’s “just-in-time” approach gave it a huge competitive edge. Just in time is now being adopted worldwide.
George Washington Carver asked the question “How can peanuts be put to other uses? And came up with over 300 applications. Many creative ideas have resulted from asking how waste products could be put to other uses. Rubber bands are made from surgical tubing; garbage is compressed into construction blocks; petrochemical waste is sold as silly putty. The Goodyear Tire Company has a pollution-free heating plant in Michigan that uses discarded tires as its only fuel.
Perhaps the best-known listing technique is the “73 idea-spurring questions” devised by Osborn. This checklist can be applied to any alternative. Here are some of the questions.
- Put to other uses? New ways to use as is? Other uses if modified?
- Adapt? What else is like it? What other ideas does this suggest? Does past offer parallel? What could I copy? Whom could I emulate?
- Minify? What to subtract? Smaller? Condensed? Miniature? Lower? Shorter? Lighter? Omit? Streamline? Split up? Understate?
- Substitute? Who else instead? What else instead? Other ingredient? Other material? Other process? Other power? Other place? Other approach? Other tone of voice?
- Rearrange? Interchange components? Other pattern? Other layout? Other sequence? Transpose cause and effect? Change pace? Change schedule?
- Combine? How about a blend, an alloy, an assortment, an ensemble? Combine units? Combine purposes? Combine appeals? Combine ideas?
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