Shark Tank – Here I come! Why not you instead of someone else?

Each semester, I offer students in my thinking critically and creatively courses this challenging question – why not you instead of someone else? Recently, an 11 year old girl, with the help of her parents, is now a millionaire. Typically, school children misplace pencils, pens, and erasers ( when they are not on the computer). In frustration and off- handedly the girl commented, “I may as well tie the eraser around my wrist,” and thus was born the “eraselet” – an eraser that acts as a bracelet. Over three and one half million of them have been sold and counting; and they are displayed on the shelves of stores like Walmart.

Each class , I begin with a different technique or strategy to challenge the students to think, no, not “outside of the box,” but really, “within the box” by applying a checklist of 9 creative, thinking principles. I have found that individuals are not as intimidated by the phrase “to think within the box” by using the following mnemonic suggested by Alex Osborn and later arranged by Bob Eberle as SCAMPER = substitute, combine, adapt, magnify or modify, put to other uses, eliminate, and rearrange or reverse. You too can be a millionaire – you simply have to utilize these 9 creative, thinking principles.

Elaborate on your ideas:   SCAMPER

Contrary to popular belief, Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb – his genius was to perfect the lightbulb as a consumer item. He adopted the idea and elaborated on it. Later, when Alexander Graham Bell announced his work on the telephone, Edison went to work and elaborated on Bell’s work, out of this endeavor Edison develops the phonograph. Manco changed duct tape by naming it Duck tape.

Elaborate on your ideas by applying a checklist of nine creative-thinking principles that were suggested by Alex Osborn and later arranged by Bob Eberle into the following mnemonic:

S = substitute? Paul Ehrlich substituted one color for another – 500 colors – until he found the right dye to color the veins for research purposes

C= combine? Gregor Mendel created a new scientific discipline, genetics, by combining math with biology

A = Adapt? “Make it a habit to keep on the lookout for novel and interesting ideas that others have used successfully. Your idea needs to be original only its adaptation to the problem you are working on.” Thomas Edison

M= Modify? Magnify? Japanese engineer, Yuma Shjiraishi made the home VCR(DVD) possible by figuring out how to lengthen videotapes so they would be long enough for future-length movies. For modify – how can it be altered? Change the meaning, the color, the sound, the odor, the form, the shape, or the name?

P= Put to other uses? George Washington Carver, botanist and chemist, discovered over 300 different uses for the peanut.

E = Eliminate –  Narrow the topic or subject matter – can the rules be eliminated? Streamline? What should I omit?

R = Rearrange? Reverse? A baseball manager can shuffle the lineup 362,880 times. For reverse – what are the opposites? Backwards? Turn it around?

(Cracking Creativity – The secret of creative genius by Michael Michalko- Ten Speed Press, 2001, pp. 94-100).

SCAMPER is based on the notion that everything new is some addition or modification of something that already exists: natural gas becomes polyethylene becomes milk jugs.

See you soon on Shark Tank!

Roger J. Vanden Busch

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