Playing with Ideas

David Wantz

David Wantz

By David Wantz, Associate Vice President, Corporate and Community Relations, University of Indianapolis

How to SCAMPER across a problem

SCAMPER is a playful acronym to help you get out of an idea rut. It stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, and Reverse.

“Scampering across a problem gets you to think about it in a novel way. That novelty invites others to become more flexible, and to play with an idea before closing the search.”

When working on a problem, you ask yourself a series of questions to see it from another perspetive. You can find a set of guided questions to help you scamper across some ideas here.

The point is that scampering across a problem gets you to think about it in a novel way. That novelty invites others to become more flexible, and to play with an idea before closing the search. Scampering helps you be more divergent in your idea generation before you converge on the “right answer.”

Here is an example how playful scampering across an idea works. Know how your boss will ask  just as an exercise, mind you, “If you had 15% less to work with next year, what would you cut out or eliminate?” It’s just an exercise of course, but no one will ever do that exercise. If I show you I can manage with 15% less next year, you will likely give me 15% less to work with.

What if you combined the need for more resources with some other way of getting those resources? Suppose the boss asked you to have a yard sale instead? In a yard sale, you set out things on a table that have value—just not to you, any longer. The goal is to get someone to take the items off your hands in exchange for a little money.

Combining the need for resources with the notion of a yard sale would generate some interesting solutions. You would have to find a buyer. You’d have to name the right price. The item has to have some value for someone else. You’d have to sell it well, advertise it, promote it, and talk about its benefits. Attacking the problem as if you were having a yard sale could generate some interesting connections to other problems.

If you can’t sell the item to anyone else, maybe it has no more value and ought to be eliminated. Playing with ideas requires some flexible thinking. Scampering across a problem is a way to limber up your mind.

We will be exploring lots of ways that play makes life better. Join us at this year’s Spirit and Place Festival November 2 through 11.

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