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What is the SCAMPER method?

Last updated

22 April 2023

Reviewed by

Jean Kaluza

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Creative thinking and problem-solving are integral components of any design process. They allow you to actualize innovations from ideas.

Unfortunately, it’s easy for any design team or individual to get stuck in a rut.

If this is you right now, you’re likely facing lingering setbacks you can’t seem to solve. Worse still, you might lack fresh and original ideas to keep the design process flowing.

Creativity, fresh ideas, and innovative concepts are key to any project’s success. As such, this lack of creative inspiration and problem-solving capabilities can slow the development process. It may also hinder the success of your goals.

A creative spark is a necessity. This is where the SCAMPER method comes in.

The SCAMPER method is one of the easiest, most direct, and most effective brainstorming techniques to help you overcome your creativity block. The method allows you to approach challenges from different perspectives.

Keep reading to learn more about the SCAMPER technique, how to use it, and its advantages.

What does SCAMPER stand for?

The SCAMPER technique is a creative brainstorming technique that teams use to explore challenges and ideas from different viewpoints.

SCAMPER is an acronym that stands for the seven viewpoints teams can use to explore ideas and setbacks. 

SCAMPER stands for:

  • Substitute—what can you replace? (For example, a product’s people, components, or materials.)

  • Combine—what can you combine? (For example, a product’s features.)

  • Adapt—what can you add? (For example, new product functions or elements.)

  • Modify/magnify/minimize—what can you modify? (For example, the color, size, shape, or other elements of your product.)

  • Put to another use/purpose—can you repurpose the product? Can you use it in a different industry?

  • Eliminate—what element or component product can you eliminate?

  • Reverse/rearrange/re-engineer—what happens if you reverse the product’s production process?

The SCAMPER technique serves as a dynamic facilitator, sparking creativity and invigorating problem-solving processes with the prompts it provides.

With its clever prompts, SCAMPER offers a path to generating innovative ideas and exploring new possibilities that might otherwise have been overlooked. It is based on the belief or notion that everything you create is an alternate version of an already-existing thing/concept.

The technique is particularly useful for generating ideas for new product development. Teams can use the seven steps above to understand how to innovate and upgrade existing products or services.

Note that how you use the SCAMPER method is flexible—you don’t need to follow a sequential flow.

What is the SCAMPER method used for?

The SCAMPER method helps the design team generate new ideas for new products or service designs by encouraging them to think of ways to improve existing designs. It is also used to brainstorm challenges to help teams discover solutions to existing obstacles.

The technique is mainly used when there is no creative flow or fresh, original, and innovative ideas. Teams take the existing ideas and concepts and look for ways to leverage them to spark a creative flow to produce even better ideas and concepts.

For example, imagine Nike wants to introduce a new and original hiking app (this already exists, but we’ll pretend it doesn’t). Unfortunately, the design team can’t develop a whole new app. Using the SCAMPER method, the team can focus on Nike’s existing sports apps and use the seven SCAMPER techniques to create a new product design.

The team would run through the techniques and choose to substitute the running features with hiking features. This results in an original app that differs from its previous designs and those of other brands.

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What are the advantages of the SCAMPER method?

Benefits of the SCAMPER technique include the following:

Encouraging creativity

The SCAMPER method helps boost creativity. The process of partitioning, combining, and rearranging various components of a procedure or product allows users to evaluate each step and determine how to improve the procedure/product’s efficiency, features, and profitability.

The technique also eliminates the limits of long-held assumptions. It frees people’s minds to check in unexpected places for the answers they’re looking for.

Generating new ideas

The SCAMPER approach encourages users to come up with new and innovative solutions. During brainstorming sessions, participants can uncover the obstacles and bottlenecks in existing practices or norms. They can then develop solutions to combat them.

Positively affecting the bottom line

Being able to generate new ideas means teams can develop better products that their market is likely to embrace. When used in a production process, the SCAMPER technique can result in increased product sales, positively affecting the business’s bottom line.

How to use the SCAMPER method

Below is a further breakdown of how to use the SCAMPER technique to keep the design and brainstorming process flowing.

Substitute

The substitute technique focuses on the parts of a solution, service, or product that you can replace with others. Team members should focus on what components they can substitute and what they will use.

Start by breaking down a complete item or idea into multiple components, such as product features or process steps. Subject each part to a trial-and-error process to discover those you can replace. Continue until you reach an optimal solution.

Ask yourself the following questions when leveraging the substitute technique:

  • What parts can we substitute to make an improvement without impacting the entire product?

  • Can we replace someone involved?

  • Can we replace the process or product with a simpler one?

Keep brainstorming possibilities until you arrive at the ideal final solution.

Combine

This technique analyzes the possible benefits of merging different ideas, process steps, or features into a single ideal output. Combining them can result in a breakthrough solution that significantly improves your position.

Guiding questions to leverage this technique include the following:

  • Can we combine X and Y features?

  • Can we combine two or more parts?

  • Can we combine resources or ideas with another partner in the industry?

  • Can we merge two steps of the process?

You may have to brainstorm the possibility of combining different features until you reach the ideal solution.

Adapt

This technique focuses on achieving an improved result by adjusting or tweaking existing features of your product, service, or solution. These adjustments can range from radical whole-product changes to minor tweaks on specific product features.

Below are some guiding questions to ask when using the adaptation technique:

  • How can we improve the existing process?

  • What changes would we need to make to achieve a better result?

  • How can we increase the process’s flexibility?

  • How can we adjust the existing process?

Modify/magnify/minimize

Most people confuse the modify technique with the adapt technique. Unlike the adapt technique, the modification step involves implementing changes to the entire process. In contrast, the adapt technique involves focusing on a certain product or feature.

Changes under the modify technique help teams discover more innovative ways to solve challenges. Guiding questions may include the following:

  • Can we modify the process to work more efficiently?

  • How will modifying the process improve results?

  • What would the process look like if the market was different?

Put to another use

You can solve certain problems by repurposing or using existing products or services differently.

While you might have a design or idea with no use or practical application in the current situation, you don’t have to discard it. It might become useful when you implement it by different means and within an entirely different scope.

Here are some guiding questions that might help you leverage this technique effectively:

  • What other departments in our organization can use the product?

  • How will repurposing the project benefit it?

  • What are the other ways we can use the product?

  • What happens if we target another market segment with the same product?

Eliminate

The technique aims to optimize a process or product by identifying and eliminating redundant or nonessential components. It helps identify the unnecessary parts of the process—parts that are dead weight. Eliminating them can streamline and optimize the entire process, making it more efficient.

Leveraging this technique can also help you identify what’s hindering your team’s innovativeness and creativity.

Common guiding questions for using this technique include the following:

  • Do we need this specific part or process?

  • Can we achieve the same or a better output without a specific part? If yes, how?

  • What will happen if we remove this part?

  • What will happen if we have to work with a portion of the resources?

Note that the elimination technique can’t be arbitrary. Your team should carefully consider the challenge and explore how trimming the product, idea, or process will contribute to improved results. This way, you can narrow down the challenge caused by the setback and ease the process of finding the solution.

Reverse

This technique seeks to explore the potential for creativity and innovation when you change the process or product’s order. Rearranging the existing process or status can also put you in a better position to provide an improved output.

Here are some examples of guiding questions:

  • Can we interchange elements? If yes, what would happen?

  • How can we reverse the current status to achieve improved results?

  • What would happen if we reversed the process?

How to create a SCAMPER method

Start by focusing on an existing product, service, or idea you want to improve or one that could be a good starting point for future development. Go down the list and ask yourself questions regarding each of the seven techniques.

Then, apply the questions to values, product attributes, markets, benefits, and any other related attributes you suspect might be relevant to your ideation needs. Analyze your answers and findings.

Finally, ask yourself whether the answers can be viable solutions. Can you use them to develop a new product or improve an existing one?

FAQs

Why is the SCAMPER technique useful?

The SCAMPER technique helps teams brainstorm ideas from different perspectives. It is useful when there is no originality, creativity, or flow of new ideas.

What are some good examples of products or services developed using the SCAMPER technique?

The SCAMPER technique can be used to develop products such as digital products, smartphones, laptops, and household appliances. Services that can be developed using this technique may include property letting or insurance.

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