We have all experienced the flashes of inspiration that occur when we least expect them—while we’re taking a shower, walking the dog, folding the laundry or simply doing a repetitive task such as crocheting or knitting. Quite often, creativity that seems to have gone on hiatus blind-sides us with new insights when we take a break from the challenge that is facing us, and simply do something different.

We don’t always have the luxury, however, of waiting for inspiration to strike. Deadlines loom, the calendar page flips, the day of reckoning approaches. My husband, who sells for a living, asks, “If you had a problem that must be solved by the end of the month, or your business would go belly up, would you wait for inspiration, or would you get creative in a hurry?” From my experiences with Destination ImagiNation®, the world’s largest nonprofit creative problem solving program, I know that people of all ages can train themselves to generate creative ideas on the spot when needed, with little preparation. We do this through the use of creative problem solving (CPS) tools.

One of these tools is called SCAMPER. What is SCAMPER? It is nothing more than a list of letters—a checklist, if you will—that represents verbs intended to trigger your creative juices. You can use all or just a few of the letters in this made-up word, and you can use them in any order that makes sense to you. Use SCAMPER to generate ideas for upcycling materials, creating a marketing plan, establishing business goals, repairing a seemingly botched project, setting a personal challenge—basically, anything you want! Here’s how the SCAMPER tool works:

S – Substitute. If you’re making a bag and you don’t have a zipper to close it, what else can you substitute? In her Purple Is Hot Bag, Pam of bagsandmorebypam solves that problem with a drawstring.

Purple Is Hot Bag, by bagsandmorebypam

C – Combine. If your goal is to create eco friendly projects by upcycling newspapers, what other materials can be combined with them to produce these products? RushofWings envisioned the combination of dirt, seeds and newspaper for her biodegradable seedling starter pots.

20 Biodegradable Seedling Starter Newspaper Pots, by RushofWings

A – Adapt. Can you adapt your blog for marketing purposes? Through Project Wonderful, Pat of onawhimsey offers opportunities for others to advertise on her Art in the Wax blog.

Adapt - onawhimsey

Project Wonderful, utilized by onawhimsey

M – Modify, Magnify, Minify. How can you modify your shop appearance to make visitors stay there longer? How can you magnify your product visibility? How can you minify your marketing efforts while magnifying the sales results (i.e., work smarter, not harder)? Janine of AltheaP has modified her shop banner to illustrate her silk dyeing and painting.

Shop Banner for AltheaP

P – Put to other uses. You have a huge stack of calendars from past years. How else can you put them to use? In her blog post, “Scuppernote ~ A Happenstance Design,” Joon of joonbeam describes how she took last year’s calendar and other recycled papers to create a tri-fold notebook with a Velcro® closure.

Put to other uses - joonbeam

Trifold Notebook with a Velcro® Closure, by joonbeam

E – Eliminate. When you lost a lot of weight, the result was a closet full of blue jeans that you considered taking to the local clothes closet, but…if you eliminate the parts of the jeans you don’t need, what could you do with the rest? Kym of kimbuktu took scissors to a pair of blue jeans to create a blue jean hipster bag.

Recycled Blue Jean Hipster with Scrappy String Piecing, by kimbuktu

R – Reverse. Everyone likes the large clay bowls you make, but you’re getting a little bored with the product line. What products could you create if you flipped the bowls upside down? What if you glazed the outside of the bowl one color, and glazed the inside with its complementary opposite? Suppose you reverse your direction and make miniature bowls instead of large bowls? Make clay boxes instead of bowls? Shape containers into stars, triangles, and cylinders? Pearl of fehustoneware inverted a bowl to form the base of her raku-fired Triple Moon Goddess Celestial incense burner/candle holder/altar piece.

RAKU Triple Moon Goddess Celestial Incense Burner/Candle Holder/Altar Piece, by fehustoneware

Keep in mind that in order for the SCAMPER tool to work, you must set aside judgment until you have finished generating ideas. Tell yourself that none of your ideas are bad; there are only good ideas and better ones! Consider using the SCAMPER tool with others (such as fellow BBEST members), since you probably share many similar challenges. Work toward many ideas from multiple categories (or letters, in this instance!), aim for novelty, and be prepared to add details to your idea to make it work. The clock is ticking, so begin generating ideas now!

© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at http://boomersandbeyond.blogspot.com.

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1 thought on “Tweaking your creativity with SCAMPER”

  1. Thank you for this intriguing approach to “thinking outside the box”. I never saw this before, and it is great. Thanks for sharing!

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