There are plenty of creative-thinking techniques out there to keep creative problem solvers busy concepting ideas for centuries. So which ones work? Every creative I’ve discussed brainstorming with has a different approach to breaking down an idea, pushing it further, or blasting through buckets of brain matter on a white board. A brainstorm session needs to be productive and a little structure like an easy to remember mnemonic checklist might be the trick to spice up your next creative outpour.
SCAMPER is a brainstorm checklist of idea-spurring questions. I came across it when reading Thinkertoys by Michael Michalo. Some of the questions in this technique were first suggested by Alex Osborn, a pioneer teacher of creativity. They were later arranged by Bob Eberle into this mnemonic.
S – Substitute something.
C – Combine it with something else.
A – Adapt something to it.
M – Modifiy or Magnify it.
P – Put it to some other use.
E – Eliminate something.
R – Reverse or Rearrange it.
Find an aspect of a creative problem you are trying to solve like say the light bulb then run it through the ringer. Pick one letter and focus on that, or go down the list — there’s no wrong way to do it. When used correctly this mechanism can be great for pushing ideas, growing concepts, or integrating aspects of a campaign. Let’s take a look at how the light bulb works out.
S – What can be substituted when making a light bulb?
C – What can I combine with the light bulb to make something else?
A – What can I adapt the light bulb in to? or with?
M – How can I modify the light bulb? Is there a quality I can magnify?
P – What other uses can it be put to?
E – What can be eliminated from the light bulb?
R – What is the reverse of a light bulb? What can be rearranged with the light bulb?
Use it for any problem you come across, whether you need to tweak your invention or recycle a garage filled with baby doll arms. Who knows, one day you might save the world with a paper clip, a lemon, and some copper wire like MacGyver. In fact, I’m counting on you to learn this technique just in case — so I made you some rad PDF to thumb through during your next mtg click to download it for free. Solve creatively, my friends.