SCAMPERSCAMPER is a very powerful idea generation and creativity technique. It is an especially useful technique to generate ideas if you intend to improve a service or product. From this article, you’ll learn 1) what is SCAMPER, 2) how to apply it to your product/service, and 3) examples.


The SCAMPER idea generation technique is founded on the belief that everything new is an alteration of something already in existence. The term ‘SCAMPER’ is actually an acronym. The full form of the individual letters is given below:

  • S – Substitute
  • C – Combine
  • A – Adapt
  • M – Modify
  • P – Put to another use
  • E – Eliminate
  • R – Reverse

These are seven prompts forming a general-purpose checklist that can be utilized to trigger questions pertaining to existing products. Each letter indicates a different manner by which you can play with the features of the object (the product/service) of the challenge for new ideas.

An advertising executive by the name of Alex Osborn, who gained credit with inventing the brainstorming technique, originally thought up a lot of the questions utilized in the technique. Having said that, it was an author and education administrator by the name of Bob Eberle who arranged these questions to form the SCAMPER mnemonic. Answering those questions with the specific situation or problem in mind would help in triggering new ideas.


To start with, you should take an existing service or product. This may be a product that you wish to enhance, which you think would be a favorable starting point for later development or which you presently have problems with. You can then pose questions pertaining to the service or product you identified, utilizing the mnemonic for guidance. Brainstorm questions – as many as you can.

Then, you would have to take a look at the answers that were brainstormed. Does any of them appear as practical solutions? Could any of them be utilized to develop a new product or improve an existing one? Should any of the ideas appear to be viable, they can be explored further. The seven steps in the SCAMPER technique are explored in detail in the next paragraphs.

Step 1: “S” for Substitute

Take away a part of the selected thing, concept or situation and replace it with something else. Anything can be an item for substitution. The possibilities include steps in a process, product parts, the people or the place. Substitution is a technique of trial and error, of replacing one object with another till you are able to determine the correct idea.

Some of the kinds of questions you can ask are given below:

  • What resources or materials can you swap or substitute to enhance the product?
  • What process or product could you utilize?
  • Can you utilize other materials or ingredients?
  • Can you change its color, sound, smell or roughness?
  • Can you modify its shape?
  • Which rules can you substitute or change?
  • Is it possible to replace someone involved?
  • Can you utilize the idea in another place?
  • What would happen if you modified your attitude or feelings towards the product?

Trigger words and example:

Some examples of trigger words for ‘Substitution’ are: colorize, alternate, rename, proxy, reposition, stand in, replace, surrogate, fill in, relieve and repackage.

An example for ‘Substitution’ would be Boeing utilizing new composites in their aircraft so that they are lighter and fuel efficient to a greater degree.

Step 2: “C” for Combine

The next step is to contemplate combining elements of the situation or problem you’re facing so as think up something new. This is in line with the view of many creativity experts that creativity has to do with combining already existing things in a fresh way.

So join, force together or affiliate two or more elements pertaining to your subject matter and contemplate routes by which such a combination could possibly take you to a solution.

Some questions:

  • What parts, ideas or materials could be possibly combined?
  • What could they be combined with to optimize uses?
  • What could be the result of combining the product in question with another, to develop something new?
  • What could be the result of combining objectives or purposes?
  • How to combine resources and talent to develop a new way of thinking directed at the product?
  • Can different elements be combined to enhance it?

Trigger words and example:

Some examples of trigger words for ‘Combine’ are: become one, bring together, come together, conjoin, intermix, link, mingle, package, unite, amalgamate, link, relate, and commingle.

The Gutenberg printing press is a great example of something that was the product of “combining.” Gutenberg came up with the movable type printing press by way of combining a coin punch with the grape press mechanism.

Step 3: “A” for Adapt

Think if there’s a solution for another problem that you may mold to suit your situation.

Some questions:

  • Is there a solution you can take from somewhere else and mold it to suit this one?
  • Is there a similarity between the current situation and something else?
  • Is there another context you can position your product in?
  • What or who could you imitate to adapt this product to fulfill another use or purpose?
  • What else does the product resemble?
  • What other ideas or products can you utilize for inspiration?
  • Are there any ideas outside your field that you can incorporate?

Trigger words and example:

Some examples of trigger words for ‘Adapt’ are: acclimatize, adopt, alter, become, accustomed, change, conceptualize, emulate, find your fit, get a feel for, incorporate, match, readjust, revise, settle in, vary, amend, bend, conform, familiarize, make suitable, refashion, transform, revise, modify.

Facebook was created for laptop and desktop browsers but rapidly adapted for utilization on mobile phones.

Step 4: “M” for Modify/Magnify

Pose a question to yourself about which ideas you can produce if you magnify or modify your situation or problem. Magnifying parts of or the whole of your idea may enhance its perceived worth or furnish fresh insight pertaining to which components are most significant.

Modify questions:

  • Can you change an aspect of your process or product to enhance it?
  • Can you think of any ways to modify the shape, feel, appearance, color or form of your product?
  • What can you add to change this product?
  • What can you highlight or emphasize to produce more value?
  • What aspect of the product can you make stronger to develop something new?
  • What would happen if you modified the process in some way?
  • Is there a fresh twist?

Magnify questions:

  • Is there anything you can make bigger, higher or larger?
  • What can you overstate or exaggerate?
  • Can you increase the frequency?
  • What can you duplicate? Is it possible to create multiple copies?
  • Is it possible to include additional features or otherwise add extra value?
  • What would be the outcome of exaggerating a component?
  • Is it possible to raise the price by increasing value?

Trigger words and example:

Some examples of trigger words for ‘Modify/Magnify’ are: amplify, boost, expand, grow, increase, lengthen, multiply, overstress, strengthen, augment, enlarge, heighten, raise and stretch out.

Fancy hands altered the virtual assistant model by developing a system to facilitate an expansive distributed team to cope with the tasks, rather than making all to be seated in an office.

Step 5: “P” for Put to another use

Contemplate how you can put your current idea to different uses or what could be reused from elsewhere so as to fix your own problem. Frequently, an idea only turns out to be great when applied in a different manner than first imagined.

Modify the goal of the subject. Contemplate why it exists, its purpose of use and what it is assumed to do. Confront all of these suppositions and propose new and strange purposes.

A classical manifestation of this step is to discover a substitute market for a manufactured good when a specific market dries up, or to find a new buyer following the termination of the agreement with one buyer.

Some questions:

  • Is it possible to utilize this product elsewhere, maybe in another industry?
  • Who else can utilize this product?
  • Would this product function differently in a different setting?
  • Is it possible to recycle the product’s waste to create something new?
  • What else could it be utilized for?
  • How could a child or older person utilize it?
  • Is it possible for people other than the intended target market to be able to use it?
  • Can you utilize this idea in an alternative place?
  • Can people with various disabilities utilize it?
  • Are there other ways to utilize it in its present form and shape?
  • Could it be utilized in another context?
  • Can you utilize this idea in other industries or markets?
  • Would the manufactured good work in different places?
  • If you didn’t know anything about it, would you be able to comprehend the objective of this idea/product?
  • Is there some other problem that your product may be a solution for?
  • What are the many diverse ways that the product finds use?

Trigger words and example:

Some examples of trigger words for ‘Put to another Use’ are: abuse, avail yourself of, bring into play, deplete, employ, exercise, expand, get through, luxuriate, manage, mistreat, reposition, spend, take pleasure in, use up, waste, work, apply, behave, contextualize, employ, exhaust, handle, take advantage of, utilize, work, wear out and treat.

Food waste from grocery stores and restaurants would usually end up in landfills, and putrefy. However, Ecoscraps converts food waste into compost. This is a good example of putting something to another use.

Step 6: “E” for Eliminate (or Minify)

Contemplate what would happen if you eliminated components or elements of your idea or if you minimized, reduced or simplified aspects of it. By way of repeated elimination or trimming of ideas, processes and objects, it is possible to steadily constrict your challenge to that function or part of the most significance.

Some questions:

  • How can you simplify or streamline this product?
  • What can you tone down or understate?
  • What components can be taken out without changing function?
  • What would be the outcome should you take away a component of the product? What would replace the component/part?
  • Is it possible to eliminate the rules?
  • What features, rules or parts can you eliminate? Or can you remove extraneous details?
  • How can you minimize cost, effort or time?
  • How can you make it lighter, faster, smaller or more fun?
  • What is unnecessary or non-essential?
  • Should you break it into different parts?

Trigger words and example:

Some examples of trigger words for ‘Eliminate (or Minify)’ are: abolish, curb, disregard, eradicate, excrete, exterminate, jettison, lessen, liquidate, moderate, pass, purge, reject, restraint, simplify, throw out, underemphasize, wipe out, control, destroy, exclude, temper and waste.

Microsoft invented Windows 8 to do away with requiring a mouse.

Step 7: “R” for Rearrange or Reverse

Rearrange – Contemplate whether you can do some kind of rearranging whether changing the sequence, pattern or layout; interchanging components; changing schedule; changing pace; or interchanging cause and effect. Contemplate changing the order of processes or other hierarchy involved.

Reverse – Contemplate what you would do if a portion of your process/product/probortunity was done or worked in another order, or in reverse. Reverse the orientation or direction. Turn it inside-out, upside-down, or backwards – just make it go against the direction it was meant to be used or to proceed.

Some questions:

  • Can you interchange components?
  • Can you transpose cause and effect?
  • Can you transpose negatives and positives?
  • Can you interchange the patterns or layout?
  • What is the best way to interchange the patterns or layout?
  • What other sequence, layout or patterns can you use? Can you think of any?
  • Can you modify the schedule of delivery or pace?
  • How can you reorganize this product?
  • Can you modify the order of steps in your process?
  • What other arrangement may be better?
  • What would be the outcome of process reversal?
  • What if you turned it upside down?
  • How can you reverse roles?
  • Can you rearrange or reverse the concept you already have?
  • What if you engaged in the exact opposite of what you originally intended?
  • How could you accomplish the opposite effect?

Trigger words and example:

Some examples of trigger words for ‘Rearrange’ or ‘Reverse’ are: adjourn, back up, change, drive backward, invalidate, move backward, overturn, put off, readjust, relocate, reorder, repeal, reschedule, retreat, switch, turn around, withdraw, annul, delay, postpone, quash, rearrange, reposition, swap and undo.

Lyft and Uber have rearranged the process by which people search for a taxi. The latter don’t really have to search for one – they just order a ride using their application.


Every bicycle has typically the following components: Pedals, Frame, Chain, Drive Sprocket, Tires, Handlebars, and Brakes. When the SCAMPER technique would be applied to a bicycle, the ideas below, for improving it, could be generated:

  • Pedal grips that strap for the feet to be better secured
  • Frames of a much lighter weight founded on new materials
  • Stronger chains having special clamps to make changing easier
  • Better derailleur gears for the rear sprocket
  • New materials for the rear wheel to replace spokes
  • Racing handlebars to make the racing position more ergo dynamic

Let’s imagine another example, where you want to devise a new kind of pen. By applying the SCAMPER technique, below is one potential output of new ideas for a new version of pen:

  • Substitute – replace nib with knife, ink with iron
  • Combine – holding with opening, writing with cutting
  • Adapt – use the pen top as a container
  • Modify – body can be made flexible
  • Put to other uses – utilize for writing on wood
  • Eliminate – clip utilizing Velcro
  • Rearrange – make the nib flow outwards

In addition to its application for generating ideas to improve a product or services, SCAMPER may also be utilized for things like triggering ideas if you’re writing a book or plan to write a blog post, coming up with a number of probable solutions for a current political or social problem or determining methods to make a marketing campaign better.

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