Innovation: SCAMPER – A Practical Guide – Part 1

Nowadays, when we think about innovation we mainly think revolutionary products with Apple or Samsung dominating the conversation. Innovation though is more common than some people believe.

The question is, how can we learn to tamper into our creativity and become ourselves innovators and change agents.

SCAMPER is a great creative thinking tool that can enable us to do just this. Let’s look at how.


First of all, let’s define “innovation”. According to Ulwick, from his book “What customers want“:

“Innovation is not the result of thinking differently. It is the result of thinking deliberately (in specific ways) about existing problems and unmet needs.

Innovation is all around us, in processes, in products, in ways of expression.

Below are some examples of innovation that is changing the world:

  • Key Wi Fi patents (developed by CSIRO – go Australia!!)
  • The Internet
  • GM food technology
  • Vaccines
  • DNA
  • Self-Managed teams
  • Kaizen
  • Personal Computers
  • Democracy

In a previous blog I highlighted the importance Innovation will have as a key ingredient of success in the very near future.

The rhythm by which we innovate is accelerating. Innovation is becoming so inherent to everyday life that we do not seem to recognize it anymore. It has become routine, second nature.

On the other hand, we see that some people still consider the “Innovators” as “other-people” and fail to fully appreciate the power all of us have when we introduce innovation as an inherent part of our daily lives.

I think that a practical tool that we can all use daily can go a long way. Over time, I have come across a few models that can stimulate creative thinking.

One of the best ones is SCAMPER (referred in Michalko’s book: Thinkertoys).

Michalko contends that:

Everything new is just an addition or modification to something that already existed.

SCAMPER is a technique for creative thinking. The acronym stands for:

  • Substitute something
  • Combine it with something else
  • Adapt something to it
  • Modify or Magnify it.
  • Put it to some other use
  • Eliminate something
  • Reverse or Rearrange it

I will not go into an elaborate analysis as there are plenty of resources here and here you can refer to learn more. I will just give some examples to highlight how this model has been used.

Substitute something

We all love music. During the last 10-15 years we saw LPs substituted by CDs, then CDs were substituted by iTunes (and other such services). Now, iTunes is in the process of being substituted by services like Spotify and Pandora. In this case the channels used for acquiring and “consuming” music have been substituted.

A useful way to think about substitution is by asking questions like: What can be substituted or Who e.g. ingredients, materials, process or procedure, place, approach are all candidates for substitutions and so on.

Combine it with something else

A simple example are the multipurpose tools e.g. the Swiss knife. This is an item that has a very diverse use, it can become a spoon, a knife, a can opener etc

You can also think of combining ideas, materials, purposes, people, uses and so on.

In the next blog I am detailing how the A, M, P, E and R can be viewed and put into practice.

[Image credit:]


About Geovrakas
George Vrakas (MBA, CCMP, CMILT) is highly reputed in the field of services procurement and logistics and has presented on topics such as, Globalisation, Services Procurement, Leadership, Continuous Improvement and Personal Productivity at various venues and Universities in Melbourne. He has also been the host at industry events and published articles on Procurement and Contract Management at various online publications. George was a Board member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport Australia (CILT Australia) from 2011 until 2016 and also a member of the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management (IACCM). George holds an MBA from Victoria University specializing in International Supply Chain Management and Applied Economics, he is also a certified Commercial Contract Management Practitioner (CCMP), a Green Belt Lean Six Sigma expert and holds a Lloyd's Maritime Academy certificate in KPIs for Ports and Terminals. He also holds certification on variety of topics primarily relating to Contract Management, Negotiations, International Regulations, Problem Solving and Change Management.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: