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Scampering For Innovation

A great quote found in Roger von Oech’s book, ‘A Whack on the Side of the Head’ reads as follows…

“Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else
and thinking something different.”

The quote is attributed to the Nobel prize winning physician Albert Szent-Györgyi.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “There is no such thing as a new idea.” Discovery suggests, rather, that there are new ways to look at things.

But, how do you look at something different?

One method I recommend is to “SCAMPER”.

Yes, hopping around like a small animal or child *is* fun, but that’s not what this ‘scampering’ is. SCAMPER is an acronym for a set of techniques that help you see things different.

You can apply this to a problem, a potential innovation, or to explore ways to make your weekly staff meetings more effective. You can filter your challenge through one or all of the following SCAMPER steps.

    S: Substitute
  • Replace all or part of your product, service, or process with something else. Change out the people, place, time or situation with something else.

  • C: Combine
  • Put parts together. Mix and integrate typically unassociated parts. Bring together other ideas and situations. What ideas can be combined? What about a blend? What about an ensemble? What materials could you combine? What else can be merged with this.

  • A: Adapt
  • How can you alter, change, or use part of another element? Can you change it to meet your purpose? Is there something you could copy? What style could you emulate? What could you make it look like? What idea can you incorporate?

  • M: Modify
  • What if this were somewhat changed? How can this be altered for the better? How about a new twist? What change can we make in the process? What about changing its shape?

  • P: Put To Other Use
  • What are other ways you can put your challenge to use?

  • E: Eliminate
  • What can be taken away? What isn’t truly necessary? What isn’t required for functionality? What if it were smaller?

  • R: Rearrange
  • What if the order were changed? Where should this part be placed in relation to that? What other layout might be better? What about timing? Or a change of pace?

Seth Godin, in his book ‘Free Prize Inside’, recommends a process called ‘Edgecrafting’ to create remarkable ideas. He suggests pushing an idea to the limits—the edge—and seeing what can be created. SCAMPER is the perfect tool to help with Edgecrafting.

When you’re needing to make a discovery or innovation, or just come up with an idea… consider the techniques of SCAMPER and find new ways of thinking about the challenge.


For those interested, SCAMPER was created by Robert Eberle using Alex Osborn’s 1953 book, ‘Applied Imagination’. It’s an often-recommended strategy found in most creative problem solving books. (So even SCAMPER itself was Eberle’s way of thinking differently from the way Osborn did about these ideas.)

Cover image and top image from Shutterstock.

This is a cross-post from Idea Sandbox Brainstorming Sandblog.

Paul Williams. Founder of Idea Sandbox. Brainstormer. Creative Problem Solver. Retail Marketing CrackerJack. Writer.

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