Inexpensive Innovation

A company has two basic functions: marketing and innovation

                                                                                                                                     – Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker once wrote “Because its purpose is to create a customer, the business has two – and only two – functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation create value, all the rest are costs.” While marketing may be relegated to a specific department in your organization, no doubt your department is expected to innovate.  Here’s a simple technique to spur creative thought in your area.

We all know it’s important to defer judgment when generating new ideas (i.e. brainstorming) however, many people ignore the benefit derived from focusing their idea generation into smaller categories.  By narrowing your focus into a smaller “box” you increase the likelihood that new, original ideas will emerge.  As I like to say “If you shrink the size of the box, it’s easier to think outside the box!”  One beneficial technique for narrowing your focus is called SCAMPER (developed by Bob Eberle).  Next time you need a new idea or solution, trying focusing your efforts by asking questions from these categories:

S – Substitute

C – Combine

A – Adapt

M – Modify

P – Put to another use

E – Eliminate

R – Reverse

A recent Harvard Business Review magazine article demonstrates how organizations can inexpensively innovate by using what they are already doing and focusing their attention into specific areas like SCAMPER.  Innovating on the Cheap by Lance Bettencourt and Scott Bettencourt provides many real life examples of how companies have managed to take existing products or existing ideas and turn them into new solutions.  While the article focuses on products, any system or solution can benefit from focused, creative thinking. 

Give SCAMPER or some other focusing tool a try next time you have a challenging problem that demands some innovative thought.

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