How to SCAMPER your way to creativity | Synergetic Management

How to SCAMPER your way to creativity

SCAMPER stylized image

Imagine a near perfect “creativity machine…”

…this machine can take any challenge (input) you give it and creatively produce any number of useful ideas (outputs).

And what if I were to offer it to you today for FREE!

… You can almost hear that little voice saying: “But wait, there’s more!…”

All jokes aside, I’ll tell you how you can get such a “machine” of your own.

When all you have is a hammer…

Even today, when most people think of creativity, they think of the act of brainstorming.

While brainstorming is excellent for generating new, often wildly different ideas, not every challenge requires radically new ideas for resolution. Some creative problem solving challenges are best handled by looking at adapting what already exists instead of innovating something radically different.


One powerful adaption-friendly approach is SCAMPER.

Bob Eberle developed SCAMPER as a way of improving creative abilities in children and adults. He derived it from Alex Osborn’s Idea Spurring Checklist in his seminal book Applied Imagination, so you know it has a solid pedigree (Alex was the inventor of brainstorming ).

SCAMPER is not a step-by-step process; rather, it is a collection of seven useful ways that can be used by themselves or in combination to adapt ideas (and/or physical products). They are:

  • Substitute – to have a person or thing act or serve in the place of another.
  • Combine – to bring together, to unite.
  • Adjust – to adjust for the purpose of suiting a condition or purpose.
  • Modify – to alter, to change the form or quality.
    Magnify – To enlarge, to make greater in form or quality.
    Minify – To make smaller, lighter, slower.
  • Put to other uses – to have a person or thing act or serve in the place of another.
  • Eliminate – to remove, omit, or get rid of a quality, part, or hole.
  • Reverse – to place opposite, to turn around.
    Rearrange – to change or adjust, different plan, layout, or scheme.

(The above technique descriptions are taken from page 6 of Bob Eberle’s book SCAMPER: Games for Imagination Development, Prufrock Press, 1980)

SCAMPER challenges you to think along lines you may never have otherwise thought about. So much so that it can temporarily get innovators to think much more like adaptors – this can more than double a group’s creative power in a SCAMPER session.

Remember, as with brainstorming, the key is to suspend judgment. Get new ideas first and then, if any of these new ideas have potential, you can figure out how to bring them to pass.

SCAMPER everywhere

SCAMPER is very versatile. Not only does it help individuals and groups generate ideas, but you can use parts of it in so many other ways:

  • Use its verbal cues to reinvigorate a flagging brainstorming session.
  • Use it in an ordinary meeting to focus attention on potential directions that could solve a key challenge.
  • Combine it with Creative Problem Solving Statement Starters to focus attention on developing an incomplete idea (in whatever setting you wish).

Notice also that you could easily create the above list simply by using SCAMPER techniques on SCAMPER itself…

An invitation to SCAMPER today!

Challenge yourself to use SCAMPER right now. How did you feel after trying it? What breakthrough(s) did you discover?

I’m looking forward to reading your comments below…

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Trevor McAlpine

Trevor McAlpine is the President and Founder of Synergetic Management and is in charge of consulting, training, and content strategy. When he isn't devising new ways to help entrepreneurs and executives get awesome results, he likes to solve the mysteries of the universe. He also wishes he had even more time to spend with his family.