Developed by Robert Eberle, he was an educational administrator in Edwardsville, IL. He was a prolific writer on creativity for children and for teachers. His most famous creative thinking resource book for creativity instructors is SCAMPER, which is still widely used.
A Leader at Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) for over 30 years, CPSI was the brain child of Alex Osborn.
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(Graphic based on image from (http://www.mindwerx.com/mind-tools/5762/history-s-c-m-p-e-r)
It is a check-list tool meant to be worked through methodically.
In detail the acronym stands for :
S – Substitute – e.g. components, materials, people
C – Combine – e.g. mix, combine with other assemblies or services, integrate
A – Adapt – e.g. alter, change function, use part of another element
M – Modify – e.g. increase or reduce in scale, change shape, modify attributes (e.g. colour)
P – Put to another use
E – Eliminate – remove elements, simplify, reduce to core functionality
R – Reverse – turn inside out or upside down, also use of Reversal.
SCAMPER was primarily developed for use by children and the use of the mnemonic was intended to make it easy to remember and apply.
SCAMPER is based on earlier work ( http://www.mindwerx.com/mind-tools/5762/history-s-c-m-p-e-rby ) by brainstorming pioneer Alex Osborn who developed a list of 83 questions, Robert Eberle, rationalised and simplified the list to make it appropriate for use by children. However the ease of use of the rationalised list made it widely popular outside of education.
SCAMPER is generally considered to be of most use in evaluating or re-evaluating an existing idea or service. The technique is simple to apply, either have an individual or a group systematically consider each aspect of the mnemonic in relation to the product or service being considered.
- Structured check list means every aspect considered.
- Simple to use, no special resources required.
- Allows expertise of a group to be engaged.
- Not all questions relevant to every situation
- Relies on individuals to actively participate.
- Not as useful to generate original concepts.
In use I found it a very useful tool, I particularity liked the structured check list approach which tends to ensure the completeness of a process. and thus generate a useful output. The only downside I encountered was that not all questions are relevant to every topic. Accordingly I was intrigued to learn it was based on Alex Osborn’s longer list and I can envisage that some tailoring of the questions dependent on the topic being considered would make it an even more useful tool.
That said the ease of use and simplicity is an enormously positive attribute, naturally leading to the application of the tool without requiring a lot of preparation.
Of the tools used, this was my personal favourite as I like the structured approach, the ability to customise the questions and the reality of life for most people being they will be looking to improve on existing ideas rather then be originators of original thought.
This is not to devalue the impact of such an approach as most commercial “innovations” are actually the refining of existing ideas – evolution rather than revolution. For example whilst Apple are widely recognised for their design innovation it is widely considered that much of what they have done is to refine existing products and technologies and then combine and package them in unique ways. I don’t think its huge leap of imagination to think that they employed SCAMPER like techniques to achieve this. Similarly Amazon are said to have revolutionised retailing but again no single element of their offering (e,g, ease of access, logistics performance, choice and payment systems) is unique, it is the combining and refining of these elements that make their offering so strong, along with a constant process of review and improvement – It could be said very SCAMPER like attributes.