SCAMPER is an acronym for seven thinking techniques to come up with creative solutions to problems.

Why use SCAMPER?

SCAMPER is one of the most well-known brainstorming techniques. It will help you come up with creative ideas for developing new products and for improving current ones.

The word 'products' doesn't refer to physical goods only. Products can also include processes, services and people. You can therefore adapt this technique to a wide range of situations.

What is SCAMPER?

SCAMPER is a mnemonic that stands for:

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Modify
  • Put to another use
  • Eliminate
  • Reverse

How do we do it?

First, take an existing product or service. This could be one that you want to improve, one that you're currently having problems with or one that you think could be a good starting point for future development.

Then ask questions about the product you identified, using the mnemonic to guide you. Brainstorm as many questions and answers as you can.

Finally, look at the answers that you came up with. Do any stand out as viable solutions? Could you use any of them to create a new product or develop an existing one? If any of your ideas seem viable, you can explore them further.

Example questions

Let's look at some of the questions you could ask for each letter of the mnemonic:

Substitute
  • What materials or resources could you substitute or swap to improve the product?
  • What other product or process could you use?
  • What rules could you substitute?
  • Could you use this product somewhere else or as a substitute for something else?
  • What would happen if you changed your feelings or attitude toward this product?
Combine
  • What would happen if you combined this product with another to create something new?
  • What if you combined purposes or objectives?
  • What could you combine to maximise the uses of this product?
  • How could you combine talent and resources to create a new approach to this product?
Adapt
  • How could you adapt or readjust this product to serve another purpose or use?
  • Who or what could you emulate to adapt this product?
  • What else is like your product?
  • What other context could you put your product into?
  • What other products or ideas could you use for inspiration?
Modify
  • How could you change the shape, look or feel of your product?
  • What could you add to modify this product?
  • What could you emphasise or highlight to create more value?
  • What element of this product could you strengthen to create something new?
Put to another use
  • Could you use this product somewhere else, perhaps in another industry?
  • Who else could use this product?
  • How would this product behave differently in another setting?
  • Could you recycle the waste from this product to make something new?
Eliminate
  • How could you streamline or simplify this product?
  • What features, parts or rules could you eliminate?
  • What could you understate or tone down?
  • How could you make it smaller, faster, lighter or more fun?
  • What would happen if you took away part of this product? What would you have in its place?
Reverse
  • What would happen if you reversed this process or sequenced things differently?
  • What if you tried to do the exact opposite of what you're trying to do now?
  • What components could you substitute to change the order of this product?
  • What roles could you reverse or swap?
  • How could you reorganise this product?

Example

Here's a simple example of how SCAMPER might be used.

A friend of a friend of a friend in Sydney was opening up a bakery and she offered me a free cupcake and coffee for an hour of brainstorming new flavours, types or styles of cupcakes to expand her business. (Brainstorming and dessert. Who could refuse?)

Here are some ideas we brainstormed using SCAMPER.

Substitute

Could she substitute the culture for a different one? Thai cupcakes? Greek cupcakes? Could she change the shape of the cupcakes? Triangles? Squares? ('Cupsquakes'?)

Combine

Could she combine dessert with an appetiser?

Make the cupcakes savoury, not sweet?

Could she make a recipe where the cupcakes could be suitable for salads?

Could she add alcohol or liquor?

Could she make a cupcake which was perfect for beer?

Adapt

Could she sell or cross-promote them at the stores along the main street (especially to establish visibility as she was in a laneway, as well as drive traffic). For example, you'd get a free cupcake with a $50 dry cleaning bill. Could she make a mobile cupcake stand, set up outside a local college, the local train stop or the nearby movie theatre?

Modify

Could she make tall cupcakes? Or really tiny cupcakes (made in thimbles)? Or the largest cupcake ever made in Australia?

Put to another use

There was a big dog park two blocks away. Could she make canine cupcakes? Could she make cupcakes to replace dinner rolls? Or to eat at breakfast?

Eliminate

Could she drop the calories? Make them flourless? Frosting-less? Paper-less?

Reverse

Could she make upside-down cupcakes? Can you make inside-out cupcake, with the filling on the outside and the cake on the inside? Could she make cupcakes with the frosting on the inside?

Do any stand out as viable solutions? Could you use any of them to create a new product or develop an existing one? If any of your ideas seem viable, explore them further.

SCAMPER Tool

SCAMPER Template [DOCX, 28.5 KB]
Updated 22 Jul 2016