The SCAMPER Method: A Useful Problem-Solving Tool

December 29, 2018

Throughout history, and especially since the creation of the Internet, many processes and techniques have been developed to enhance creativity, solve conflicts, and increase productivity. Among them, we find the famous SCAMPER method, which can help us both personally and professionally.

This method aims to facilitate the search for ideas and solutions to concrete problems through questions in order to activate creativity and problem-solving skills. Let’s delve a little deeper into this.

“Creativity is nothing but a mind set free.”

-Torrie T. Asai-

The SCAMPER method: What is it exactly?

We can define the SCAMPER method as an improvement of a well-known technique called ‘brainstorming’. This incredibly successful technique was created by Alex Osborn and it focused on the monitoring of habits and exchange of ideas in a group of people.

In fact, one of Osborn’s students named Bob Eberle was the one to develop this method to perfect brainstorming. He made the technique more pragmatic. Another fun fact about it is that its name is an acronym for a series of action verbs: substitute, combine, adjust, modify, put to other uses, eliminate, and reverse.

To understand this method better, we must think of these words and some of the questions they may arise:

  • Substitute – Can we change it for something else?
  • Combine – What can we combine?
  • Adjust – How can we adjust it?
  • Modify – Could we modify it?
  • Put to other uses – Can it be used for something else?
  • Eliminate – Is there a reason why we should eliminate it?
  • Reverse – Can we change the order?

Experts say that this method is applicable to any field. They consider it useful not only in organizations and work groups but also in conflict and survival situations.

People brainstorming.

How to implement this method

The SCAMPER method consists of a series of phases. Let’s see what they are and what we can achieve with each of them:

Identify the problem

The first step that we have to take is quite logical. First of all, we need to identify the problem that we want to solve. Some examples would be: “Why isn’t a specific group able to move forward?” or “Why aren’t we advancing?”

Ask the SCAMPER questions

As you know by now, the word SCAMPER is an acronym. Once we’ve identified the problem, the next step is to ask the questions. Said questions should be answered in groups and every single answer should be taken into consideration. For example: “Why is it so difficult for us to move forward?”, “What’s causing the problem?”, or “What lies behind our setbacks?”

Organize the answers

As we said above, it’s important to take every answer into account. Collect them all and make sure there’s no censorship. No matter how stupid or irrelevant an answer may seem, it may actually help find a solution to an issue.

Evaluate the ideas

At this point, you begin to select the answers. You have to identify the ones that seem the most valid, those that can lead to the solution of the problem. However, invalid answers can be used to solve future conflicts, so it’s vital to keep them in mind.

Select the ideas

The last and final step is to select the ideas. Keep your mind concentrated on looking for the right solution and only choose the ideas that you believe will lead to it. In addition, it’s also important to explain to the rest of the group the reason why you chose those concrete ideas over the others.

Coworkers using the SCAMPER method to share their ideas.

Is the SCAMPER method effective?

Since this problem-solving tool is very simple and quick to implement, we can say it’s pretty effective. The great thing about it is that if it doesn’t work the first time, you can just apply it again.

If you want to use this tool, don’t forget to play with your group’s creativity. That way, you’ll get more objective and useful results. Don’t underestimate your group’s ability to come up with great ideas!

According to studies, the SCAMPER method can yield positive results in up to 80% of cases. This is something ESADE showed in one of their surveys. In addition, they stated that the more people apply it, the more useful it is since it becomes easier to implement.

“Creative thinking, in terms of idea creativity, is not a mystical talent. It is a skill that can be practiced and nurtured.”

-Edward de Bono-