Scamper

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Engineering Areas
Analysis & problem definition, Ideation & Conceptual design
Group or individual
Group
Amount of people
Up to 15
Type of activity
Collaborative team setting, On-line Classroom activity
Duration
Between one and two hours
Type of class
Practice-based

Description

What is this technique about

SCAMPER is considered one of the easiest, most direct brainstorming methods. The simple technique is based on the idea that what’s new is actually based on something that already exists.

SCAMPER is acronym for seven techniques; (S) substitute, (C) combine, (A) adapt, (M) modify, (P) put to another use, (E) eliminate and (R) reverse.

This brainstorming technique can help to come up with new ideas, when it seems impossible to come up with anything new. The Scamper technique helps you generate ideas by encouraging you to think about how you could improve already existing ones by asking questions about it.

Using this technique you can explore problems from seven perspectives: substitute, combine, adapt, modify, put to another use, eliminate and reverse. These questions help you come up with new creative ideas. Also for improving the recent ones.

Where does it come from 

SCAMPER was first introduced by Bob Eberle to address targeted questions that help solve problems or ignite creativity during brainstorming meetings.

For which purposes it is used (why in your engineering teaching)

The SCAMPER Method is based upon the notion that every new idea or solution is a modification of one that already exists. It aims to generate new ideas or solution by making you think about how you could improve those that already exist. You do this by asking questions about the existing ideas or solutions.

This technique allows you to explore the problem from seven perspectives,  which are the  ones mentioned before. Asking a set of questions related to these perspectives will help to think differently and come up with new ideas or solutions. The tool is also helpful when one needs to  improve ideas or solutions that were found recently.

The questions force the individual or group to think in an arbitrarily different way, and using all the seven perspectives will help in producing useful results.

The Scamper technique can be used for different purposes, from analysing a product, process or service to reading and writing (Idek, 2016).

How to use it

At any point in a creative-thinking situation, alone or in a group, novel solutions emerge when those involved force themselves to think in an arbitrarily different way. For that reason, using any or all of the seven thinking approaches listed below will help those who use them produce surprising and sometimes very useful results (IdeaConnection Ltd., 2022).

Here are some possible issues / questions for the each perspective (they may be completely different depending on the topic/idea/subject/product you are analysing):

Substitute

    • What materials or resources can you substitute or swap to improve the novel solutions?
    • What other novel solutions or process could you use?
    • What rules could you substitute?
    • Can you use this product somewhere else, or as a substitute for something else?
    • What will happen if you change your feelings or attitude toward this novel solution?
    • What happens if we switch two things around?

Combine

    • What would happen if you combined this product with another, to create something new?
    • What if you combined purposes or objectives?
    • What could you combine to maximize the uses of this novel solution?
    • How could you combine talent and resources to create a new approach to this novel solution?
    • What if we add this these two things together?

Adapt

    • How could you adapt or readjust this product to serve another purpose or use?
    • What else is the novel solution like?
    • Who or what could you emulate to adapt this novel solution?
    • What else is like your novel solution?
    • What other context could you put your novel solutions into?
    • What other novel solutions or ideas could you use for inspiration?
    • What other context could we put it into?

Modify

    • How could you change the shape, look, or feel of your novel solutions?
    • What could you add to modify this novel solution?
    • What could you emphasize or highlight to create more value?
    • What element of this novel solution could you strengthen to create something new?
    • What can you emphasize, hide, or change?
    • How could you change the shape, look, or feel?

Put to Another Use

    • Can you use this novel solution somewhere else, perhaps in another industry?
    • How would this novel solution behave differently in another setting?
    • Could you recycle the waste from this novel solution to make something new?

Eliminate

    • How could you streamline or simplify this novel solution?
    • 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 novel solution? What would you have in its place?

Reverse

    • 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 novel solution?
    • What roles could you reverse or swap?
    • How could you reorganize this novel solution?
    • Why not turn it upside down?

How to implement this techniques online

There are two main concepts to keep in mind before starting the brainstorming using the SCAMPER technique. 

    1. there is no sequential flow to follow while moving from each of the seven thinking techniques, move between different techniques without restricted to a specific flow
    2. the principle of force fitting should be adapted during the thinking sessions. For example, any response to the SCAMPER technique is welcomed no matter how non-logical is it

SCAMPER can be done on-line quite easily, there is a wide variety of templates and tools available, for instance MIRO offers a template to be used.

What are the steps for conducting the exercise on-line?

Preparation: Starting a remote SCAMPER-based brainstorm is easy. Open up the Template in the tool selected, e.g. MIRO or CONCEPTBOARD where you can get started with the pre-populated layout.

The way to SCAMPER is nonlinear. If you’re moderating your team’s brainstorming, feel free to bounce fluidly between questions.

Step 1: Align your team to the problem you’re trying to solve. This is pivotal or any brainstorming exercise, being it online or not.

Step 2: Begin working through each letter in SCAMPER.

For an optimal SCAMPER brainstorming session, it’s important to promote an environment that encourages new ideas where nobody feels that their contributions are dismissed.

In summary what you need is a brainstorming tool and videoconferencing option and start working.

Bear in mind the following (which in essence apply to all virtual brainstorming activities:

    • Use collaborative tools and technology. Be aware that you will need video, as facial expressions and body language make up for a large proportion of the communication. You will need dynamic video and audio
    • Send out the topic and a clear overview of the goal/purpose of the brainstorm beforehand
    • Set a time limit for the meeting, and if needed bear in mind that participants might be in different time zones
    • Appoint a facilitator
    • Send a follow-up

Examples and/or testimonials

There are many examples and cases on the use of SCAMPER, but we have not yet found one where this technique is issued in a virtual environment.

If you have used this technique in an online or virtual setting, or know about a case please let us know.

Tools needed

You will need a platform to share screens and communicate with the participants, such as for instance Zoom, MS Teams or similar, as well as tools for brainstorming

    • Miro
    • Mural
    • Concept Board

Resources

Links

Latour, I. (2020, June). The guide to mastering online brainstorming. Virtual Brainstorming Guide: How to Generate Winning Ideas | Miro. Available at: https://miro.com/guides/online-brainstorming/

Ondreicsik, A. (2021, Oktober 25). The SCAMPER technique for brainstorming & creativity. Available at: https://conceptboard.com/blog/scamper-technique-template/

IdeaConnection Ltd. (2022). Thinking Methods: SCAMPER. Available at: https://www.ideaconnection.com/thinking-methods/scamper-00022.html

Idek, S. (2016). Measuring the Application of SCAMPER Technique in Facilitating Creative and Critical Thinking in Composing Short Stories and Poems. Malaysian Journal of Higher Order Thinking Skills in Education. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/29038230/Measuring_the_Application_of_SCAMPER_Technique_in_Facilitating_Creative_and_Critical_Thinking_in_Composing_Short_Stories_and_Poems

(2021, March 15). SCAMPER Technique for Creative Thinking. Engaging Learners in Online Session. Available at: https://sites.google.com/view/engagingstudentswithcontent/create-level-thinking/scamper

Consuunt. (o. D.). SCAMPER Model. Available at: https://www.consuunt.com/scamper-model/

Videos

Michael Masters. (2019, August 28). How to Generate Ideas with the SCAMPER Technique. [Video]. YouTube. Available at: https://youtu.be/-OMJINQIZzA

Growth Quest. (2021, March 18). SCAMPER: The Best Creative Thinking Technique. [Video]. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToRl9dp0MXA

Papers

Ozyaprak, M. (2016). The Effectiveness of SCAMPER Technique on Creative Thinking Skills. In: Journal for the Education of Gifted Young Scientists, 4(1), pp. 31-40(10). DOI: 10.17478/JEGYS.2016116348

Wu, T., Wu, Y. (2020). Applying project-based learning and SCAMPER teaching strategies in engineering education to explore the influence of creativity on cognition, personal motivation, and personality traits. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tsc.2020.100631.

Özyaprak, M., LeanaTaşcılar, M. Z. (2019). The Effectiveness of Self-Regulated Learning on Teaching SCAMPER Technique of Creativity. In: Turkish Journal of Giftedness and Education, 9(1), (pp. 16-31).

Books

Eberle, B. (1984). Help! In solving problems creatively at home and school. Rourke Pub Group. ISBN: 9780866531870