By Martin Gilliard

The mnemonic SCAMPER stands for: Substitute; Combine; Adapt; Magnify-Modify; Put to other uses; Eliminate; Rearrange-Reverse. These are the nine ways that you can take a subject and manipulate it into something else.

These ways were first formally noted by Alex Osborn the father of brainstorming – at a later date they were organized by an educator Bob Eberle into this mnemonic form.


(Photo Credit: qthomasbower)

  1. Can you substitute something? Use someone else or something else such as a different part, material or ingredient? Can it be done in a different place or use a different form of energy to power it?
  2. Can you combine your subject with something else? Two things with different purposes when combined together could result in an entirely new product.
  3. Can you adapt something to your subject? Is it similar to something else, could it be adapted to serve a completely new purpose?
  4. Can you magnify or add to your subject? Make it bigger, longer, wider, taller, thicker, or faster.
  5. Can you modify or change your subject in some way?
  6. Can you put your subject to some other use? Could you use it for something else without any changes or perhaps with just a few small modifications? Can it be used by a different set of people or in a different geographical setting?
  7. Can you eliminate something from it? Remove something to make it simpler or cheaper why still maintaining its core purpose? Make it lighter, smaller, slower. Reducing its functionality – think of the iPod shuffle.
  8. Can you rearrange your subject somehow? Turn it inside out or put it in a new sequence of events. Turn it upside down or back to front. Reverse its role or transpose its cause and effect.
  9. And finally what happens when you reverse your subject? You may also be interested about reading about the reversal technique.

The above can be applied to practically any subject area, from improving an office chair to reorganizing and entire department or organization.

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