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Ideas Post

James Altucher


10 Ideas About Ideas

Everyone here at NotePD is a student of creativity. I always like to research different methods for coming up with ideas.

This one is called the SCAMPER method.

SCAMPER stands for: ...

Modify (Also Magnify and Minify)
Put to another use

The basic idea is that if you are trying to come up with an idea to improve something, you go down this list (and examples are below) and try to apply each concept to what you are trying to improve and see if it works.


    To do the SUBSTITUTE process, given something you want to improve, ask these questions:

    What can I substitute so as to make an improvement?
    How can I substitute the place, time, materials or people?
    Can I substitute one part for another or change any parts?
    Can I replace someone involved?
    Can I change the rules?
    Should I change the name?
    Can I use other ingredients or materials?
    Can I use other processes or procedures?
    Can I change its shape, colour, roughness, sound or smell?
    Can I use this idea for other projects?
    Can I change my feelings or attitude towards it?

    I'll give two simple examples: Walt Disney, and a little website called NotePD.

    Walt Disney.

    In 1932 Disney had already created the Mickey Mouse character and Mickey Mouse cartoons were being played before movies all around the world.

    And yet, Disney was heading for bankruptcy. He couldn't make a profit and it was the Great Depression. And his first company had failed so he was terrified this one would fail.

    So he Substituted. "Mickey Mouse" was good with movies. How about we substitute "merchandise" for movies.

    He put Mickey Mouse on a watch.

    In 1933, the Walt Disney Co was the biggest watch manufacturer on the planet and made their first profit. This saved the company, which went on to make Snow White a year or so later and the rest is history.


    Given the infrastructure and capabilities of the site, what else could we do. Can I use the basic idea of NotePD for other ideas.

    How about a site that allows people to create surveys? SurveyPD!

    Each list is a survey instead of an idea list: "What candidate do you like?" and list ten candidates and their basic policy beliefs and their photo. A "Like" signifies you like that candidate and in the comments, people can discuss their choices.

    BOOM! This can be a survey site overnight if we so chose.

    2. COMBINE

    I often refer to this as "idea sex".

    When combining, ask these questions:

    What ideas, materials, features, processes, people, products, or components can I combine?
    Can I combine or merge this or that with other objects?
    What can I combine so as to maximize the number of uses?
    What can I combine in order to lower the costs of production?
    Which materials could I combine?
    Where can I build synergy?
    Which are the best elements I can bring together so as to achieve a particular result?

    So, for instance, Japanese and Mexican food.

    Let's make a restaurant that sells "Sushiritos". Burritos filled with raw fish. BOOM!

    How about NotePD? Well, we already combined the idea of twitter with the idea of writing ten ideas a day.

    How about Quora + NotePD. So you can not only make idea lists but ask and answer questions.

    Hmmm, well, we already do that with Challenges. So how about combine NotePD with advertising agencies.

    A company makes a challenge: who can come up with the best TV commercials for us? It's a challenge.

    People respond with a YouTube video of a simple commercial for the product of that company. The company awards a small prize to the commercial they want to buy.

    In other words, use NotePD to crowdsource ads. Save millions of dollars in expenses on ad agencies.


    One more:

    Combine NotePD with Amazon with NFTS:

    Make a "book" section on everyone's profile (next to "public" and "private" ideas). You can upload your book and NotePD automatically mints an NFT that people have to buy if they want to have access to your book.

    3. ADAPT

    Which part of the product could I change?
    Can I seek inspiration in other products or processes, but in a different context?
    Does the history offer any solutions?
    Which ideas could I adapt, copy, or borrow from other people’s products?

    An example is Post-It notes:

    Dr. Spencer Silver worked at 3M on developing super tough adhesives. Kind of like a super glue. Instead, he "failed". He came up with a type of adhesive that would stick but only lightly, to other surfaces. He felt like a failure.

    Meanwhile, Art Fry, another employee of 3M was having trouble remembering Church hymns. He would write them down on small pieces of paper but then lose them

    He asked to borrow some Post-Its. He ADAPTed them to what he needed, keeping notes and sticking them to his blackboard. He loved using them so much he gave Post-its to every employee in the company. Everyone loved it. But when the company wanted to sell it, they couldn't find buyers. So they had to ADAPT again. They game them out for free to everyone in Boise, Idaho.

    People loved them so much they started buying them.

    "I thought, what we have here isn't just a bookmark," said Fry. "It's a whole new way to communicate." (Funny how social media inspired the same quote decades later).

    NotePD is not quite old enough to adapt but an adaptation from a few weeks ago is we added collaboration.

    @Paolo and I wanted to collaborate on a Private list which is "features we want to add". But the site had been set up so people can exercise their own idea muscle by writing their individual idea lists.

    But we adapted so this could also be a work productivity tool. We added the ability to add collaborators to a list. At the bottom of a list, when you make it, you can add "Contributors".

    We adapted.

    4. MAGNIFY

    Above, I called this "Modify" but I think "Magnify" is a better word:

    What can I magnify or make larger?
    What can I tone down or delete?
    Could I exaggerate or overstate buttons, colours, size…?
    Could I grow the target group?
    What can be made higher, bigger, or stronger?
    Can I increase its speed or frequency?
    Can I add extra features?
    How can I add extra value?
    What can you remove or make smaller, condensed, lower, shorter or lighter—or streamline, split up or understate?
    What can I change in this way or that way so as to achieve such and such a result?

    McDonalds wanted to sell more than just a hamburger. So they magnified it. They created "the Big Mac".

    The NY Times has been doing crosswords since 1942. But now every newspaper was doing crosswords. It's one of the most popular sections of the paper.

    So how can the NYT MAGNIFY it?

    Well, they did. Now they started doing 2 puzzles on Sunday.

    And, in 2014, they introduced the Mini Crossword (they "made smaller" as described above), which is almost as popular (I play it online whenever I can).

    Has NotePD magnified? Again, this site has only been around a few months and has not even launched.

    But look, sometimes people need a little push to finish an idea list.

    So we MAGNIFIED. We added an AI engine. So now when you write an idea list you can push the button that says "Complete with AI" and our AI engine will help you find more ideas. Try it!


    What else can it be used for?
    How would a child use it?—an older person?
    How would people with different disabilities use it?
    Which other target group could benefit from this product?
    What other kind of user would need or want my product?
    Who or what else may be able to use it?
    Can it be used by people other than those it was originally intended for?
    Are there new ways to use it in its current shape or form?
    Would there be other possible uses if I were to modify the product?
    How can I reuse something in a certain way by doing what to it?

    Example: Purell

    Purell is ethyl alcohol and it was used in 1988 to clean semiconductors.

    Then people started stopping by the inventor's desk and using it clean their hands.

    By 1997, GOJO industries realized this was the primary use and started selling it. Now, $36 million is sold each year.

    I think Mark Zuckerberg initially intended for Facebook to be a dating site. Instead, it became a worldwide site where people keep track of friends and colleagues from all stages of their lives. It's like an archalelogical dig of the many diverse careers, schools, locations, friends you've had in your life.

    These concepts are somewhat similar but thinking about it as "put to another use" versus "substitute" could lead to different types of creativity.

    But the example I described about NotePD in "Substitute" can be used her. "Put to another use" could be turning Notepd into a survery site.

    Or here's another one. Let's say you are a motivational speaker and have 10,000 subscribers to your emails or newsletter or whatever.

    NotePD can be used by a group like this to engage their readers more. Send to all the readers: "List the top 10 things you did this month you are most proud of". Then list "The top ten people you know who can spread the world about what you did." This can be motivational techniques for how to find media about the things you've done.


    What can I remove without altering its function?
    What would happen if I removed a component or part of it?
    Can I cut costs?
    How can I simplify it?
    What’s non-essential or unnecessary?
    Can I eliminate the rules?
    Can I split my product into different parts?

    We take fast food for granted, as if it's existed since the Roman Empire. But a restaurant is basically: come in, a waitress takes your order, you eat, you pay.

    Well, let's eliminate waitresses and have you pay first.

    That's fast food. Invented by Ray Kroc with McDonalds.

    Twitter was originally referred to as micro-blogging. it took the popular concept of blogging (sites like Blogger.com (started by Twitter founder Ev Williams) had sold to Google for $100 million. ) and eliminated....the ability to have infinite words. Only 140 characters.

    By making this elimination, Twitter is now worth 400x what Ev Williams sold it to Google for and now Elon Musk is buying it.

    What could we ELIMINATE in NotePD to make it better. Again, I think it's too early to say. But maybe eliminate "status updates" to make it pure idea lists. Then we can use Twitter' API to make status updates here so it appears on here and Twitter at the same time.

    Maybe we can eliminate the need for at least three ideas to make a list? Who knows? When using the SCAMPER method, bad ideas are just as powerful as good ideas. The key is to create ideas and be creativity.


    What can I rearrange in some way – can I interchange components, the pattern, or the layout?
    What would I do if part of your problem, product or process worked in reverse.

    The Facebook Feed is a great example.

    Facebook originally had no "News Feed". It was a collection of Profiles and people would put personal updates on their profile. A user would have to go to someone's Profile page to see any updates in their lives.

    The Facebook "rearranged". It put personal updates also on page called the Feed and that's the page you would go to when you went to the site.

    At first, people hated it and started called Facebook a "media site" instead of a "social media site".

    But now, Facebook is the most popular site in the world for people finding out the news of the day. Not just news about their friends but all news.

    Google rearranged the concept of email. Previous, sites like Hotmail, would not have "threaded" emails. Emails where replies appeared as sub-emails under the original email.

    When Gmail was the first email site to have threaded emails. And, again, people didn't like it at first. It was different. But within a year, Gmail was the biggest email site in the world.

    Note: you can say Gmail grew because it was Google. but most of Google's products fail (what happened to Google Groups. Or Google Hangouts?). Rearranging the concept of email caused the success and domination of Gmail.

    What could we do to rearrange NotePD (and I ask because I consider this site very much your site, the site of the users).

    Maybe put up front the largest posts of the day. Or the smallest? Or ones with media in it to encourage people to use words and videos or images to describe their ideas.


    I always am interested how creative people come up with ideas.

    The SCAMPER method can be seen in other concepts written about here, particularly the idea list on "idea math".

    But it's useful to use different lenses to figure out an idea. Maybe SUBSTITUTE can be similar to "ADAPT". Or "Combine" the same as "idea sex". But that doesn't matter. Words change the way we think about things even though they are the same meaning. "Substitute" feels different than "Adapt" and it's not a total overlap anyway.

    But the ability to develop ideas in more and more situations and better and better ideas requires practice. Requires DO-ing. Making ten ideas a day has been for me the best way to practice and it's saved my life developing this muscle.

    Execution is starting to be a commodity in the world. Facts are free. Production ability are eveywhere. There are no-code sites to write your code. There are students on fiverr who will write your book for $50. And on and on.

    But the ideas are what will make you and your products stand out. Nothing else. Not marketing. Not sales. Not even execution. The idea itself is the only thing that is uniquely you in a world where everything else has become a commodity.

    You can't go to college for this skill. You have to do it and practice it.

    I love studying things like SCAMPER because it helps me improve my skills at coming up with ideas and I hope it will help you as well.

    9. MORE NotePD uses: ELIMINATE

    How about we eliminate the name. Not just "NotePD" but any name.

    Now we have a site that any company can take on and white label and use for just their employees. Every week, employees can write idea lists to improve the products they work on. And other employees can search and collaborate. AI can add its thoughts. Managers can see the brainstorms and even seach ideas in other departments. The Whitelabel NotePD. Maybe we can be a Software-as-a-Service. .

    Haven't thought of it until now. How can I sell this into companies?


    Nobody is going to compete with YouTube. YouTube videos average around 10-15 minutes.

    And TV does larger form videos.

    So how about 30 second videos. aka TikTok

    emarketer writes: "In 2022, we expect 45.7% of US marketers from companies with 100 or more employees to use TikTok for influencer marketing versus 42.5% for YouTube."


    Square, the payment processing system, is an example of "business model by reversal".

    Large chain stores accept credit cards. They are big enough and wealthy enough that credit card companies will take the chance that there will be less fraud for many reasons.

    But if "mom-and-pop" set up a cafe or if an artist in a flea market wanted to accept credit cards then no luck. Visa viewed you as too risky. Like many industries, the top 1/3 of the industry was well-served but not the bottom third

    Jim McKelvey told me on my podcast that he and his partner Jack Dorsey started Square to go in the reverse: provide a payment system for the bottom third of the industry.

    Well now Square does 25 million transactions per month. By comparison, Visa does 20 million.

    11. Any examples I'm missing?


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