Get More Creative: The SCAMPER Technique
Boost your creativity during brainstorming sessions using this technique.
The human brain is an incredible pattern-matching machine, Jeff Bezos
The brain functions on associations. As Jeff Bezos said, it works based on defined patterns. But, since creativity is all about creating new connections, how can we keep on coming with ideas? Well, your brain kinda needs a kick in the ass to get into the creative flow. It won’t go by default.
Think about the next scenario. You want to innovate the dental industry. How can you start generating new ideas? By default, your brain thinks about things related to the dental spectrum. For example, toothbrushes, toothpaste, stomatologist, and so on. So, how can you turn off the pattern-matching machine and get creative?
The SCAMPER technique
is a creative approach that lets you explore ideas from 7 different perspectives. By questioning your current ideas, this method encourages you to come with new ones. SCAMPER stands for:
- Put to other uses;
Using the specific questions for each phase, your job is to generate as many new ideas as possible. Alex Osborn, the father of brainstorming, developed most of them. Later on, Bob Eberle, an education administrator&author, put these questions together. And that’s the brief history of the SCAMPER technique.
How to use it
- Take an existing idea. Either one that you want to put in place, one you’re having problems with, or one that came to you on the stop. Write it down somewhere.
- Connect it to 7 different post its (or anything else). Attribute each post-it to a specific phase of the technique. Your final settlement should look like this:
3. Start asking questions. Here you have a list with some of the relevant questions for each phase:
- What can be replaced?
- What other product or process could you use?
- What rules could you substitute?
- Can you use this product somewhere else, or as a replacement for something else?
- What would happen if you combine this product with another?
- What if you combine purposes or objectives?
- What could you combine to maximize the uses of this product?
- How could you combine talent and resources to create a new approach to this product?
- How could you adapt or readjust this product to serve another purpose or use?
- What else is the product like?
- Who or what could you emulate to adapt this product?
- What else is similar to your product?
- What another context could you put your product into?
- What other products or ideas could you use for inspiration?
- How could you change the shape, look, or feel of your product?
- What could you add to modify this product?
- What could you emphasize or highlight to create more value?
- What element of this product could you strengthen to create something new?
Put to other uses:
- Can 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?
- 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?
- What would happen if you reversed this process or sequenced things differently?
- What if you try 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 reorganize this product?
4. If you’re doing this in a team, discuss your results after everyone goes through all 7 phases. Check all your answers together. Then, you can decide on the next steps based on the ideas discovered now.
Tips and tricks
- Declutter your mind before starting this exercise. And make sure your teammates do the same! Meditate, take a 15-minute walk, write your thoughts down, or anything that works for you.
- Allow the impractical ideas to pop out. The aim is to generate as many as you can. They might seem impractical to you. But they might also boost your teammates’ creativity.
- During brainstorming sessions, mix this technique with others that boost lateral thinking. Check out Metaphorical thinking, Provocation, Random Input, or Reversal.
Our brains are fascinating. They make us feel bad for something that happened a few years ago, but can’t seem to get into the creative flow on their own. Find an activity that gets you in the zone. It can be exercising, taking a short walk, reading, meditating, or anything else. This part differs for everybody.
Then, use the SCAMPER technique to enhance your creativity. Or another technique that fits you and your team. Maximize the gains out of each creative momentum. And, keep in mind that creativity is a skill. It’s not something one is born with or not. You can always get better at it.
For a great course on this topic, check out 42courses’s course “How To Get More Creative”. Spoiler alert, the last module is called “Killer Techniques”. That’s where I learned about the SCAMPER technique. And many others. If you know of other courses on creativity, let me know!