Use the SCAMPER Technique to Generate Creative Ideas

By Henri Gisclard-Biondi
Published: 5/17/21
definition backgroundUse the SCAMPER Technique to Generate Creative Ideas

What is the best way to innovate? If finding innovative ideas is part of your daily missions, this question probably sounds familiar. In that case, the SCAMPER technique could be of great help.

This methodology designed for creative thinking and problem solving is known to help generate more qualitative ideas. It allows you to explore possibilities related to a product, service or any situation thanks to a series of questions aimed at challenging your perspective.

What are the principles of the SCAMPER methodology? How to use it to facilitate innovation? Discover this framework in detail and learn how to integrate it into your projects and streamline your brainstormings and creative process!

What is the SCAMPER method?

SCAMPER is an idea generation technique geared towards innovation and designed to extend your outlook. It can be used to:

  • Improve an existing product or service,
  • Generate ideas for new products and services,
  • Explore the solutions of a problem or situation,
  • And more.

💡 This approach was created by Alex Osborn, who also invented other creative brainstorming techniques. His method was then developed further and formalized by Bob Eberle.

This “drill down” philosophy consists of breaking down the elements of the problem, situation or object into smaller pieces to analyze them from every angle.

SCAMPER is an acronym that represents a guide through the transformation process. Each letter corresponds to a verb associated with a series of questions. SCAMPER stands for:

  • Substitute,
  • Combine,
  • Adapt,
  • Modify,
  • Put to another use,
  • Eliminate,
  • Reverse.
Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Reverse© Designorate

These action triggers can be used systematically or at random to generate fresh ideas. We’ll now see how to make the most out of this tool.

How to use the SCAMPER technique

S for Substitute

The Substitute part means replacing one element of the object with another while considering different aspects.

✅ Useful questions

  • What could be replaced?
  • By what?
  • How?
  • Could the existing process or product be replaced by others?
  • Could another approach be used?

C for Combine

This series of questions is aimed at associating and mixing different elements to form only one.

✅ Questions to ask

  • Could two elements work together to create a new product or service?
  • Which elements could work hand in hand to gain time or generate more value?
  • Which processes could be simplified into one?
  • Who could work on a project (which skills or expertise would go well with your vision)?

A for Adapt

This step should inspire you to look outward and see which good ideas could be adapted to improve your product or service. This external approach helps you switch to a broader context and consider existing products made by others.

✅ Related questions

  • What element of such and such service could be interesting to transpose to ours?
  • What has been proved to work elsewhere, and could it be adapted to our business?
  • Has something similar been done in the past?
  • What could you add to the table to enrich your value proposition/concept, or make it easier to sell?

M for Modify

This phase invites you to reflect on what changes could be made to improve your product or make it a more enticing offer on the market. You could amplify (magnify) or reduce (minify) some of its features and characteristics.

✅ Example questions

  • What feature could be modified?
  • Would the changes be minor or is a complete overhaul of this characteristic needed?
  • If a change is made, what results could be expected?
  • Could elements be added or scrapped?
  • Could the shape, colour, texture or other attributes be changed?

P for Put to another use

Try and imagine new uses for your object: how would it perform if it were to evolve in a different context? What situations could it be useful for?

✅ Some questions

  • How to design a new feature?
  • Could you think of new uses for your product or service?
  • How could your concept be applied differently, or in other situations?
  • Could the idea work for something different too?

E for Eliminate

Your task is to decide what could be eliminated or simplified without hurting the value of your project or concept. Sometimes less is more, so take your time to trim down whatever isn’t essential to your vision. The goal isn’t to skimp on important features, but merely to ensure everything serves a valuable purpose.

✅ Questions to consider

  • What could be suppressed or toned down?
  • What elements aren’t essential?
  • What would be the simplest form the object could take to ensure quality? This related to the concept of MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
  • How could the service or product be simplified for the end-user or the company?

R for Reverse

This part of the process can help you produce something more original. By reversing the concept and turning it upside down, something unexpected could happen.

✅ A few questions

  • How to reverse the perspective or change the angle of the problem?
  • Are things as they appear to be? Could the negative switch places with the positive?
  • Could the opposite of the existing offer be more interesting or effective?
  • Are your priorities right?

☝️ The R can also stand for Rearrange:

  • Could tasks be conducted in a different order?
  • Could some elements be organized differently?

Using SCAMPER to boost team creativity

The SCAMPER technique is even more effective when brainstorming in a team. To make it even easier for team members to interact, you can use it in conjunction with other tools. Be creative! Agile tools such as a Kanban board can be useful, but so can unconventional objects like a deck of cards or a game, which also yield great results.

This method is easy to grasp and can allow everyone to bounce off the ideas of each other, streamlining the flow of ideas. Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate and Reverse! The resulting output can then be used to improve your concept.

Are you ready to unleash your creativity and let the flow of ideas going? Has the SCAMPER mnemonic helped you come up with original concepts and change your perspective? Feel free to share your inspiring experiences below!

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