How To SCAMPER Your Way To Innovation And Creativity

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Innovation
Photo: Shutterstock/ Africa Studio

In this age of rapid technological and societal change, the innovation competency has emerged as the most critical factor for not just growth, but survival. Many people believe that some people are just more creative than others, but that’s a myth. Increasing your own personal innovation skills and creativity is as simple as applying different tools and frameworks. One especially effective tool for brainstorming and ideation is the acronym SCAMPER.

What Is SCAMPER

The SCAMPER method is based on the idea that anything new is simply a modification of something else. Bob Eberle first introduced SCAMPER in the early 70s to ignite creativity and help people brainstorm new ideas more easily. Each letter shows a way to trigger new solutions.

  • S = Substitute
  • C = Combine
  • A = Adapt
  • M = Modify
  • P = Put to Another Use
  • E = Eliminate
  • R = Reverse

How To Use SCAMPER

Step one of using the SCAMPER technique is to state the problem you are trying to solve or the idea you wish to develop. It could be a personal challenge, a business problem, or a new service or product you want to develop.

Here are some examples of problems that could be explored with SCAMPER:

  • “How can we improve our new hire onboarding process?”
  • “What should our next generation widget look like?”
  • “What should we do to make our annual holiday party totally awesome?”

Step two is to use each letter of SCAMPER and ask questions to produce new ideas.

“S” is for Substitute

Remove a part of the process, product, or concept and replace it with something else. Some examples of questions to ask are:

  • What resources could we swap out?
  • What part in the process can be replaced with better alternatives?
  • Who or what can be substituted?

Some trigger words for the substitute step are: alternate, exchange, rename, replace, reposition, shape, swap, switch.

“C” is for Combine

Join two or more elements and consider ways that such a combination might move you toward a solution. Some examples of questions to ask are:

  • Can we merge any steps of the process?
  • Can we use two processes simultaneously?
  • Can we combine resources with another company in the market?

Some trigger words for the combine step are: blend, fuse, intermix, join, link, merge, mingle, mix, package, relate, unite.

“A” is for Adapt

Change something in your process or product so that it works where it did not before. Some examples of questions to ask are:

  • What would need to change to achieve better results?
  • What else could be done in this specific task?
  • How can we adjust the existing process to make it more efficient?

Some trigger words for the adapt step are: adjust, alter, change, contextualize, emulate, incorporate, match, modify, revise, rework, transform, vary.

“M” is for Modify

Consider many different attributes of the thing you're working on and change them, arbitrarily, if necessary. Some examples of questions to ask are:

  • Can we change an aspect of our process or product to enhance it?
  • What can we highlight or emphasize to produce more value?
  • What aspect of the product can we make stronger to develop something new?

Some trigger words for the modify step are: amplify, boost, enlarge, expand, extend, grow, heighten, highlight, increase, multiply, overemphasize, strengthen.

“P” is for Put To Another Use

Modify the intention of the subject. Think about why it exists, what it is used for, what it's supposed to do. Challenge all of these assumptions. Some examples of questions to ask are:

  • Is it possible for this product to be used elsewhere, maybe in another industry?
  • Is there some other problem that our product may be a solution for?
  • What are some different ways that the product finds use?

Some trigger words for the put to another use step are: contextualize, enjoy, exercise, exhaust, manipulate, operate, reposition, utilize, waste, wear out, work.

“E” is for Eliminate

Remove any or all elements of your subject, arbitrarily if necessary. Simplify and reduce to core functionality. Some examples of questions to ask are:

  • What can be taken out without changing the function?
  • How can we minimize cost, effort or time?
  • What is unnecessary or non-essential?

Some trigger words for the eliminate step are: abolish, destroy, eradicate, exclude, exterminate, limit, lower, moderate, purge, reduce, reject, remove, restrict, simplify.

“R” is for Reverse

Change the direction or orientation. Make it go against the direction it was intended to go or be used. Look at it from every angle. Some examples of questions to ask are:

  • What if we engaged in the exact opposite of what we originally intended?
  • What would happen if we reverse the process?
  • Can we interchange elements of the concept we already have?

Some trigger words for the reverse step are: change, delay, invert, postpone, rearrange, relocate, reorganize, reposition, reschedule, shuffle, swap, undo, withdraw.

The Takeaway

The next time you need to be creative or need to come up with ideas on a moment’s notice, don’t panic, just SCAMPER.

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