SCAMPER technique: everything’s a remix

September 5, 2012 0

If you’re aiming at improving your skills to generate fresh ideas or to come up with the best solution to a problem, make the most of the creativity techniques and methods I’ve discussed. You’ll also enjoy the post on creativity boosters where you’ll learn to steal ideas like an artist.

In my today’s post covering the creativity topic I’ll tell you about the SCAMPER technique – this creativity method hasn’t been mentioned on Womanita before. SCAMPER is one of the most effective creativity techniques. It implies that “nothing is new under the sun”, every fresh idea is an addition or modification of a well-known concept.

scamper technique

The SCAMPER method was mostly arranged by Bob Eberle. The SCAMPER meaning is not obvious until you look into it. It is an acronym which unites a set of nine sub-techniques helping you transform any product, service, object into something creatively new. As you learn about these nine techniques, try asking yourself how a laptop, purse, toast, website, or any other object, concept or process can be refined.

scamper method

You can use the SCAMPER technique if you want to improve your services or boost your marketing campaign, generate ideas for a book you’re planning to write or find new ways to get more revenue from a product you’re selling. If you want to try other creative thinking techniques, learn how to make a mind map and power your brain with effective boosters.

The SCAMPER method: meaning and questions

SCAMPER is about searching out alternative ideas which provoke you (in a good way) by making you think beyond your usual patterns. Alternatives you will generate while using the SCAMPER method can help you solve your problem, become a good starting point, spur a brilliant idea that has nothing to do with your situation, let you arrive at a conclusion that the most obvious approach is still the best one.

Technically SCAMPER is a checklist of creativity-boosting questions arranged into the following mnemonic:

  • (S) Substitute something – elements, information, individuals.
scamper meaning

Typical questions:

    • Can I replace or change any elements?
    • What can I substitute to make a positive change?
    • Who can I use instead?
    • Can the rules or approach be changed?
    • What if I use other materials/ingredients/procedures?
    • Can I rename it?
    • What if I swap this for that and see how things go?
    • Can I change my attitude towards the issue?
    • Can I substitute a component with a less costly alternative?

Trigger words: take the place of, exchange, fill in for, repackage, reposition, swap, alternate, rename, replace, shape, switch, stand in for, surrogate, colorize, reserve.

  •  (C) Combine several parts of your problem to get something different and achieve synergy.
scamper questions

Typical questions:

    • What can I combine to make it more useful?
    • Can I combine/merge this product with another one to make it something new?
    • Can I combine the functions of the different elements?
    • What if I combine materials/ingredients?
    • How to combine people’s skills and company resources to improve the product?
    • Can I make the product/process multifunctional?

Trigger words: merge, amalgamate, unite, come together, join, become one, bring together, blend, relate, fuse, intermix, commingle, coalesce, mingle, conjoin, link, mix.

  •  (A) Adapt or change certain components of your issue, alter its function, use part of another component.
scamper method and technique

Typical questions:

    • Can I find something similar to the issue, but in a different context?
    • What other ideas does this suggest?
    • What have I learned in the past to apply to this situation?
    • What can I copy, borrow or (artistically) steal?
    • Whom could I live up to?
    • What processes can I adapt to suit my purposes? What else can be changed?
    • What are others doing to come up with solutions? Can I do the same?

Trigger words: revise, change, alter, acclimatize, amend, bend, match, adapt, transform, copy, familiarize, become accustomed, refashion, adjust, modify, rework, fit, emulate, conform, make suitable, get a feel for, adapt oneself, contextualize, incorporate.

  • (M) Modify or Magnify part of the problem, or approach it in an unordinary way.
scamper everything’s a remix

Typical questions:

    • What can be made larger or extended?
    • What can be made higher, bigger, stronger?
    • Can I increase its frequency or modify the process?
    • Is there a new twist?
    • Can I improve the meaning, the color, the shape, the smell or the sound?
    • Can its form/shape be changed?
    • How can I increase the price by adding more value?

Trigger words: enlarge, increase, amplify, boost, expand, multiply, heighten, extend, stretch out, lengthen, strengthen, intensify, improve, make seem more important, overstress, grow.

  •  (P) Put the issue to some other use. Come up with other ways to use your product or services. Ask yourself how you can solve your problem by reimplementing something from areas that have nothing to do with your current issue.
scamper technique and creativity

Typical questions:

    • What else can I use it for?
    • Can it be used by wider audiences than it was meant for?
    • Are there brand new ways to use it without changing?
    • What are the new ways to use it if modified?
    • Could kids use this? How?
    • If I knew nothing about it, would I easily guess its essence, functions?
    • Can I use it in other markets/fields?
    • What if I use the idea in a different place?

Trigger words: benefit, employ, contextualize, bring into play, exploit, take advantage of, make use of, expend, source, luxuriate, utilize, reposition.

  • (E) Eliminate (or minify). Think of what might it lead to if you eliminated (or simplified) certain components of the product/service/problem and imagine what you might do under the circumstances. This technique enables you to come up with various ways of overcoming the difficulty.
scamper technique for decision making

Typical questions:

    • What can be eliminated, made smaller, minimized or even omitted?
    • How can I simplify it?
    • What elements can be removed without changing the function?
    • What’s non-essential?
    • What if I divide it into different elements?
    • Can it be narrowed down it its core functions?
    • What if I lower the price by taking something out?
    • How can this be streamlined?
    • What if I make it lighter or even portable?
    • How can I minimize cost, time and effort?
    • How can I minimize waste?
    • What can I do without?

Trigger words: do away with, get rid of, limit, remove, exclude, omit, simplify, restraint, throw out, control, waste, moderate, disregard, expel, shorten, abolish, eradicate, jettison, wipe out, curb, lessen, temper, pass, restrict, exterminate, tone down, reduce, lower, purge.

  •  (R) Rearrange (or reverse). Think of what you might do if part of your problem/process/product was implemented in a different order or functioned in reverse. It helps you see your situation from different perspectives.
scamper examples

Typical questions:

    • Can I reverse the process or rearrange the idea?
    • Can I do it the other way round?
    • What if I turn it around or upside down? Down instead of up?
    • What if I interchange components?
    • Can this be considered backwards?
    • Can I use other patterns, layouts, sequences?
    • Can I do the exact opposite of what I planned at first?
    • How can I achieve the opposite effect?
    • How can I reverse roles?

Trigger words: readjust, adjourn, go backward, relocate, swap, withdraw, delay, overturn, rearrange, reorganize, switch, back up, invert, quash, reorder, annul, change, reschedule, transpose, reposition, undo, reshuffle, turn around.

Example of the SCAMPER method: look beyond questions

Ask yourself the questions above about your situation and generate as many ideas as possible. Stave off your inner critic when answering the questions, even if your logic tells you that certain ideas are inappropriate. When you’re done generating ideas look through them and make a decision regarding which ones you are going to explore and implement.

scamper technique meaning examples

For example, you are using the SCAMPER method for the purpose of improving your blog. You might want to:

  • substitute free online blogging platform with the ‘self-host’ option
  • combine usingFlash and HTML
  • adapt header as space for your unique logo
  • modify content to be optimized
  • put to other uses: pictures as links
  • eliminate: eye-piercing colors, broken links, copied content
  • rearrange: navigation for better usability

Of course, you may discover that not all of the SCAMPER questions fit in with your particular scenario. You should remember that it is the principle, the meanings behind the question that you should apply to your context, not just the immediate question asked. That’s why extract the meaning of each question and develop your own to fit in with your situation.

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