Fifty years ago, a little-known children’s book introduced the “SCAMPER” model as way to help teachers foster creativity in their classrooms. It’s an amazingly simple tool, and unbelievably powerful for pushing thinking beyond “business as usual” to help teams innovate.
SCAMPER is an acronym for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Reverse. Each letter prompts people to answer a question related to the framework. It’s flexible. Select one letter or move through them in sequence.
SCAMPER can be used to generate ideas for improving existing offerings or business processes, or innovating completely new products and services. Once a set of ideas or concepts are developed, the best ideas should be selected and further refined through sharing and testing ideas with colleagues and customers.
To make the most use of SCAMPER, consider the answers to various questions which are associated with each word:
- S (Substitute): Are there any different materials or resources you can use to create the products you currently make?
- C (Combine): Can this product or service be combined with another existing product to provide a better solution?
- A (Adapt): Can the product or service be adapted or adjusted to serve another audience?
- M (Modify): Are there features that could be modified, added, or adjusted regarding physical appearance or functionality?
- P (Put to another use): Are there other industries that could find this product or service useful?
- E (Eliminate): Is there anything from this product or service that is not necessary or can be eliminated to reduce cost or time to deliver?
- R (Reverse): Can the creation of this product or service be reversed or done in another order to make it more efficient or effective?
Here’s a downloadable template in the form of a Microsoft PowerPoint file that I developed as part of my work at Praxie.com. Use SCAMPER for brainstorming sessions, or give it to people as part of an innovation toolkit. Either way, when teams apply the approach to what they’re doing, they’ll be able to come up with ideas for new products, services, processes, and business models.
SCAMPER can be as strategic or as tactical as you want, so you don’t just get pie-in-the-sky ideas. You can get real solutions that focus on implementation to transform big ideas into practical opportunities.
About the Author
Soren Kaplan is the bestselling and award winning author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, an Affiliate at the Center for Effective Organizations at USC’s Marshall School of Business, a columnist for Inc. Magazine, a globally recognized keynote speaker, and the Founder of Praxie. Business Insider and the Thinkers50 have named him one of the world’s top management thought leaders and consultants.