Robert F. Eberle’s Creative Thinking Tool: SCAMPER

Robert F. Eberle was an educational administrator in Edwardsville, IL. He wrote about creativity for children and teachers. His most famous creative thinking resource book for creativity instructors is SCAMPER, which is still widely used and available.

SCAMPER is a “checklist” type creative thinking tool that helps people to think of changes they might make to an existing product to create a new one.

Bob Eberle developed SCAMPER to help children easily tap into their natural creativeness based upon Alex Osborn’s 83 questions. Bob chose to keep the list short, simple and used the memory tool of an acronym to make it easy to learn and remember.

S – Substitute – components, materials, people

C – Combine – mix, combine with other assemblies or services, integrate

A – Adapt – alter, change function, use part of another element

M – Modify – increase or reduce in scale, change shape, modifyattributes (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.

 When to use it

Use it to discover more ideas when you are running out.

Use it to stimulate new ways of thinking about the problem, perhaps to kick you out of your current rut.


How to use it

SCAMPER is an acronym for useful list of words that can be applied as stimuli to make you think differently about the problem area.


What can you substitute? What can be used instead? Who else instead? What other ingredients? Other material? Other process? Other power? Other place? Other approach? Other sounds? Other forces?

Instead of … I can …


What can you combine or bring together somehow? How about a blend, an alloy, an assortment, an ensemble? Combine units? Combine purposes? Combine appeals? Combine ideas?

I can bring together … and … to …


What can you adapt for use as a solution? What else is like this? What other idea does this suggest? Does past offer a parallel? What could I copy? Who could I emulate?

I can adapt … in this way … to …


Can you change the item in some way? Change meaning, colour, motion, sound, smell, form, shape? Other changes?

Also: Magnify: What can you add? More time? Greater frequency? Stronger? Higher? Longer? Thicker? Extra value? Plus ingredient? Duplicate? Multiply? Exaggerate?

And: ‘Minify’: What can you remove? Smaller? Condensed? Miniature? Lower? Shorter? Lighter? Omit? Streamline? Split up? Understate?

I can change … in this way … to …

Put to other uses

How can you put the thing to different or other uses? New ways to use as is? Other uses if it is modified?

I can re-use … in this way …  by …


What can you eliminate? Remove something? Eliminate waste? Reduce time? Reduce effort? Cut costs?

I can eliminate … by …


What can be rearranged in some way? Interchange components? Other pattern? Other layout? Other sequence? Transpose cause and effect? Change pace? Change schedule?

I can rearrange … like this … such that …


I want to invent a new type of pen.

Substitute – ink with iron, nib with knife

Combine – writing with cutting, holding with opening

Adapt – pen top as container

Modify – body to be flexible

Put to other uses – use to write on wood

Eliminate – clip by using velcro

Rearrange – nib to fold outwards

How it works

SCAMPER works by providing a list of active verbs that you associate with your problem and hence create ideas. As they are all verbs, they are about doing, and so get you to think about action.

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