Brief description of creativity technique

The SCAMPER method is a collection of nine idea-spurring prompts for transforming any object, service, or process into something new. With SCAMPER, you take something that already exists and do something to it. Then you do something else to it. You keep doing something to it until you invent an original idea that can exist on its own.

SCAMPER is a mnemonic for (S) Substitute; (C) Combine; (A) Adapt; (M) Modify or Magnify; (P) Put to some other use; (E) Eliminate; (R) Reverse or Rearrange.

Exercise for skills at the level of:





Learning objectives of the exercise

SCAMPER offers a way to apply a work-based approach in an academic environment. Using this technique in academic activities will increase students’ creative thinking skills. SCAMPER provides a method for students of all levels to practice creative thinking in academic activities. The questions in the technique provide a concrete system for flexible and fluent thinking.

In group problem-solving sessions, SCAMPER questions can get ideas flowing and direct the group’s imagination.

Successful application of the technique depends on the product/idea, people working on it and the data available for the process, suitability of the ideas/solutions for the issue in hand, and testing the solution/s. Evaluation criteria can be set to evaluate the creative nature of the outcome. These too may be case dependent. Results are judged by the diversity and uniqueness of an idea, the new viewpoint and appropriateness to the issue and need. Creativity should be improved by using the technique and starting to see things differently. In some cases, help of a facilitator might be needed.

This exercise could be very challenging depending on the case being addressed. It could be taught as a collaborative walk-through with students.

Skills developed/enhanced by the exercise









Tolerance of ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity

Others, please specify



Critical Thinking

Divergent thinking skills


Negotiating skills


Strategic thinking



In person: 30 minutes or more; extra time can be given to work on the template as homework

Online: 15 minutes synchronous to present the case studies and the exercise; can be completed asynchronously by students

How many people are needed?

One or more (can be an individual or group exercise)

Materials required

In person: PowerPoint; SCAMPER board template printout, pen or pencil

Online: PowerPoint; SCAMPER board template e-format

Instructions for conducting the exercise

Step 1. Present case studies that also provide a walk-through of the actions to undertake.

Step 2. Choose or have students choose an object, service, or process.

Step 3. Students work through the nine prompts and fill in their templates.

1. (S) Substitute something – components, materials, people
2. (C) Combine it with something else – mix, combine with other assemblies or services, integrate
3. (A) Adapt something to it – alter, change function, use part of another element
4. (M) Modify or Magnify it – increase or reduce in scale, change shape, modify attributes (e.g. colour)
5. (P) Put it to some other use
6. (E) Eliminate something – remove elements, simplify, reduce to core functionality
7. (R) Reverse or Rearrange it – turn inside out or upside down.

Step 4. Teacher and students evaluate the relative value (level of improvement) of taking each of the nine steps.

Case study from desk research

Applying SCAMPER to a McDonalds hamburger.

Ray Kroc, who went into business with and eventually bought out the McDonalds brothers, applied SCAMPER principles to challenges he faced.

1. Substitute.

Problem: The McDonalds were lacklustre business partners. Kroc was worried that they might sell out to someone else who would not want him as a partner.

SCAMPER solution: Substitute a different partner. Kroc was cash poor, but he was determined to buy out the McDonalds. Kroc raised the $2.7 million asking price from John Bristol, a venture capitalist whose clients (college endowment funds) realized a $14 million return on their investment. The next substitution was to go public, which he did in 1963, making many investors rich.

2. Combine.

Problem: Ray Kroc’s first hamburger stand was planned for Des Plaines, Illinois, but he couldn’t afford to finance construction.

SCAMPER solution: Combine purposes with someone else. He gave the construction company half-ownership in return for constructing this first building.

3. Adapt.

Problem: Ray Kroc wanted to develop a new twist on the food business, but he lacked ideas.

SCAMPER solution: Adapt someone else’s idea. Kroc was amazed at the volume of business the McDonalds were doing by selling a hamburger in a paper bag here, a helping of French fries there. Kroc’s big idea was adapting the McDonalds’ simple merchandising methods to create a new concept – fast food.

4. Modify.

Problem: The French fries made in Kroc’s first stand in Illinois didn’t taste like the originals; they were tasteless and mushy. He tried the McDonalds’ recipe again and again, to no avail. A friend finally solved the mystery – Kroc stored his potatoes in the basement, while the McDonalds kept theirs outside in chicken-wire bins, exposed to desert winds that cured the potatoes.

SCAMPER solution: Modify the storage area. Kroc cured the potatoes by installing large electric fans in the basement.

5. Magnify.

Problem: A number of franchise owners wanted to expand the basic menu.

SCAMPER solution: Magnify the burger and add new items to the menu. He created the popular Big Mac by way of a $10 million “Build a Big Mac” contest. Later additions included the Egg McMuffin, Filet-o-Fish, and chicken McNuggets.

6. Put to other uses.

Problem: Kroc needed to develop other sources of income.

SCAMPER solution: Put McDonald’s to use in real estate business. Kroc’s company would lease and develop a site, then re-lease it to the franchisee, who would have to pay rent as well as franchise fees. Today, 10 percent of the company’s revenue comes from rentals. In the 1960s, Kroc also bought back as many of the original sites as he could. While this policy initially amassed huge debts, it gave McDonald’s an advantage over competitors, who periodically faced massive rent hikes.

7. Eliminate or Minimise.

Problem: Hamburger patty distributors packed their burgers in a way that was efficient for them, but that also meant McDonald’s employees had to restack them to keep the bottom patties from getting crushed.

SCAMPER solution: Eliminate the problem. Kroc refused to do business with packagers unless they shipped fewer burgers in each stack. Employees no longer had to restack burgers, saving McDonald’s time and money. He also eliminated the middleman by buying entire crops of Idaho Russet Burbank potatoes.

8. Rearrange.

Problem: Kroc wanted to differentiate his establishments from the competition.

SCAMPER solution: Rearrange the architecture. Kroc changed the original red-and-white, box-shaped prototype.

Source: Michalko, Michael, Thinkertoys: A handbook of creative-thinking techniques, Second Edition, Ten Speed Press, 2006, Toronto, pp76-78.

Use McDonald case study as an example for students during the classes.
Use your own example to analyse through SCAMPER technique.