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A Guide to the SCAMPER Technique for Creative Thinking

scamper problem solving

The SCAMPER problem solving tool.

Creative thinking and problem-solving are essential parts of the design process to turn ideas into innovation and break the barriers against creativity. One of the successful methods used in creative thinking is the SCAMPER technique. While there are different creative thinking and problem-solving techniques such as reversed brainstorming, Hurson’s thinking model, the six hats of critical thinking and Lego Serious Play, SCAMPER is considered one of the easiest and most direct methods. The SCAMPER technique is based very simply on the idea that what is new is actually a modification of existing old things around us.

Download our free SCAMPER template at the end of the article.

“There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don’t know.” – Ambrose Bierce

SCAMPER was first introduced by Bob Eberle to address targeted questions that help solve problems or ignite creativity during brainstorming meetings. The name SCAMPER is acronym for seven techniques; (S) substitute, (C) combine, (A) adapt, (M) modify, (P) put to another use, (E) eliminate and (R) reverse. These keywords represent the necessary questions addressed during the creative thinking meeting.

What is the SCAMPER technique? And How does it work?

During the need for critical thinking either alone or inside a group, forcing the mind to think in a specific flow can help emerging innovative ideas that won’t be possible to reach using a regular thinking flow. The SCAMPER technique aims to provide seven different thinking approaches to find innovative ideas and solutions.

There are two main concepts to keep in mind before starting the brainstorming using the SCAMPER technique; yet there is no sequential flow to follow while moving from each of the seven thinking techniques. Unlike Disney’s creative strategy method, SCAMPER facilitators can move between different techniques without restricted to a specific flow. Secondly, the principle of force fitting should be adapted during the thinking sessions. For example, any response to the SCAMPER technique is welcomed no matter how non-logical is it. The seven SCAMPER techniques include the following:

Substitute

The substitute technique focuses on the parts in the product, service or solution that can be replaced with another. During this part of the discussion the meeting attendees focus on making decisions to substitute part of the process with another. Questions asked during this part are:

The substitute technique tends to provide alternative solutions for decision makers to evaluate different solutions in order to reach the final action.

Combine

The combine technique tends to analyze the possibility of merging two ideas, stages of the process or product in one single more efficient output. In some cases, combining two innovative ideas can lead to a new product or technology which leads to market strength. For example, merging phone technology with digital camera produced a new revolutionary product in the telecommunications industry. The combine technique discussion can include the following questions:

Adapt

Adapt refers to a brainstorming discussion that aims to adjust or tweak product or service for a better output. This adjustment can range between minor changes to radical changes in the whole project. Adaption is one of the efficient techniques to solve problems through enhancing the existing system. The adapt technique brainstorming session can include the following questions:

Modify, minify or magnify

The modify technique refers to changing the process in a way that unleashes more innovative capabilities or solves problems. This change is more that just adjustment as it focuses on the overall process. For example, it can target reducing the project’s process or change our perspective of how to look at the problem. The questions asked under this rubric include:

Put to another use

This technique concerns how to put the current product or process in another purpose or how to use the existing product to solve problems. For example, this technique can be used to learn how to shift an existing product to another market segment or user type. The questions in this technique can include the following:

Eliminate or elaborate

As the name implies, this technique aims to identify the parts of the process that can be eliminated to improve the process product or service. It also helps to explore the unnecessary parts of the project. Questions related to this part includes:

In some situations, the unnecessary resources or steps in the process provide extra load for the project to achieve innovation and creativity. Eliminating these resources extends the ability to innovate and allocate more resources for creativity within the organizations.

Reverse

Finally, the reverse or rearrange technique aims to explore the innovative potential when changing the order of the process in the production line. Reversing the process or part of it can help solving problems or produce more innovative output. The questions in this part include:

Conclusion

The SCAMPER technique is one of the easiest and direct methods for creative thinking and problem-solving through a number of techniques or question types; (S) substitute, (C) combine, (A) adapt, (M) modify, (P) put to another use, (E) eliminate and (R) reverse. These types can be used to explore problems from seven perspectives. This holistic technique of study helps reaching the best decision which fuels innovation and creativity.

 

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