Last week we organised a ThinkTank for the municipality of Rotterdam. As always we used a lot of different techniques. Today I’d like to share one of these techniques. A true classic called SCAMPER.

SCAMPER is a simple creative checklist, invented by the American author Bob Eberle. He created a mnemonic based on the work of brainstorm guru Alex Osborn. SCAMPER is an acronym for seven thinking techniques, it stands for:

S = Substitute
C = Combine
A = Adapt
M = Modify (or Magnify)
P = Put to Other Uses
E = Eliminate
R = Rearrange (or Reverse)

The techniques descend from the idea that asking questions will provide you with a lot of insights. Questions force us to think and formulate answers. Creative questions are a fun and easy way to explore a subject creatively.

Scamper can best be applied on an existing product or service.

Every technique represents another way to look at your challenge. With every technique you can ask a different set of questions that will most certainly lead to very different ideas. I advice you to make your own list of questions that fit your type of challenge best. To get you started I’ve included some example questions below.

Can I use an alternative?
Can I change parts?
Can I use different materials?
Can I use another technique?
Can I change its name, colour, sound, shape, smell?
Can I use a different structure?
Can I use other ideas or resources?
Can I replace components?
Can I substitute rules, ideas or people?

Can I combine my challenge with something else?
Can I combine elements of my challenge?
Can I combine objectives?
Can I merge parts or ideas?
Can I combine products to create something new?

What else is like my product?
What can I copy, borrow or steal?
What ideas could I incorporate?
What is similar to my challenge?
What other process can I adapt?

Can I magnify it?
Can I make it huge?
Can I minimise it?
Can I make it tiny?
Can I increase its frequency?
Can I make it lighter, heavier, stronger or faster?
Can I change its shape, its colour or its smell?
Can I make it faster or bolder?
Can I add extra features?
Can I multiply it?

Put to Other Uses
In what other ways can I use my product?
What are other reasons to use my product?
Can I use something from another industry?
In what ways can I recycle my waste?
Who else could use this product?

Can I erase elements of my challenge?
Can I delete a part of the process?
What rules can I remove?
Can I remove something crucial?
How can I simplify my product or process?
What is non-essential? Can I remove this?
Can I make it smaller or more compact?

Rearrange (or Reverse)
Can I reverse the order?
Can I switch parts of the process?
Can I change the sequence?
Can I do the opposite?
Can I work backwards?
Can I interchange components?

As you can imagine this list is just to get you started. Explore each technique and create a list of your own. Have some fun in the process and you will see that this checklist will definitely get you thinking.

Do you have experience with SCAMPER and have some stories to tell? Please let me know in the comment box below.

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Flickr Creative Commons Image via Benjamin Esham.

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