Looking for a systematic and creative way to refine a promising idea or improve an existing product? Try the SCAMPER technique!

What is SCAMPER?

SCAMPER is an acronym that stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Reverse.

This creative problem-solving and brainstorming tool helps individuals or groups transform a concept, product, service, or process by examining it through 6 different lines of questioning.

The 6 Elements of SCAMPER

Identify all the different components (building blocks) of your concept and then:

  • Substitute: Replace a component with something else and consider the consequences.
  • Combine: Merge two or more components together and explore the effects.
  • Adapt: Change a component to better fit the problem or situation.
  • Modify: Alter the characteristics of some of the components, like shape, size, color, etc.
  • Put to Another Use: Repurpose a component in a new way, and think about how it can be used differently.
  • Eliminate: Remove or reduce a component to see how it would function without it.
  • Reverse: Flip a component, and ponder what would happen if you did the opposite of the usual.

When to Use SCAMPER

Use SCAMPER when you already have a promising well-detailed concept or an existing product. It's a tool that will creatively transform and refine the concept or product.

The Origin of SCAMPER

SCAMPER has roots in Alex Osborn's work on brainstorming and creative thinking from the 1950s. Osborn, an advertising exec, introduced brainstorming in his book Applied Imagination. He and Parnes developed a series of questions to help refine ideas.

In the 1970s, Bob Eberle, an educator, and author, refined and expanded Osborn's approach in his book "SCAMPER: Games for Imagination Development." He aimed to provide an easy-to-remember technique for creativity and innovation.

Since then, facilitators have widely adopted SCAMPER as a fun, effective, and versatile idea generation tool.

How to Facilitate a SCAMPER Workshop?

1. Introduce SCAMPER

Explain the acronym to your participants using a presentation, whiteboard, handouts, or SCAMPER card deck. If they're inexperienced, try a quick warm-up exercise.

2. Explain the Target Product or Concept

Present the product or concept to refine in the workshop. Answer any clarification questions.

3. Define and Align on the Goal

Determine the goal of the SCAMPER transformation (e.g., correcting a flaw, increasing uniqueness, adding value). Make sure everyone agrees.

4. Identify Components

Break down the product or concept into building blocks (e.g., parts, steps, users, locations, time, business models, money, needs). Make these visible to all participants.

5. Break into Groups (Optional)

Divide participants into small groups (3-6 people) for collaboration and idea-sharing.

6. Apply SCAMPER

Give each group time to explore each SCAMPER element and generate ideas. Record ideas on Post-Its or a digital board.

7. Share and Discuss

Have each group present their ideas, allowing for feedback and further brainstorming.

8. Refine and Prioritize

Encourage participants to refine and prioritize ideas using voting or other convergence techniques.

Pros and Cons of SCAMPER


  • Encourages creative thinking and innovation
  • Provides a structured approach to developing ideas
  • Applicable to various industries and contexts


  • May require training in lateral thinking
  • Requires skilled facilitation
  • Needs a promising idea or concept to start with
  • Can be time-consuming if not managed well
  • Some participants may find the structured approach restrictive

A Practical Example of SCAMPER Application

Imagine you're facilitating a workshop for a company that wants to improve its customer service experience. Using the SCAMPER technique, participants might:

  • Substitute: Replace an automated phone system with live chat support
  • Combine: Integrate customer service with social media platforms
  • Adapt: Adopt best practices from other industries to improve customer satisfaction
  • Modify: Increase staff training to improve service quality
  • Put to another use: Utilize customer feedback to inform product development
  • Eliminate: Remove unnecessary steps in the customer service process
  • Reverse: Offer proactive customer support instead of reactive service

In conclusion, the SCAMPER methodology is a classic tool for workshop facilitators.

As with many things, the devil is in the details; simple to understand but difficult to master. Choosing the right questions will make a significant difference, and you might even have to create your own SCAMPER questions suited to the workshop context. With the right guidance, your participants will be inspired and engaged, leading to more unique and robust solutions.

Craving more? Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter, where I both share simple tips for facilitators and in-depth insights. Don't forget to follow me on LinkedIn and on Twitter as well!