The SCAMPER method is one of the easiest yet most effective strategies for finding solutions to problems and sparking creative thinking.

Think of this mental model as akin to opening a faucet that introduces water to seven pipes, and each of those pipes channels to a unique pot of earth. Each pot has the potential to bring forth new growth once the seeds in it are watered. Note that the SCAMPER method doesn’t require that you move in a sequential flow of steps. You can use it in any order or sequence and jump among the different techniques.

Substitute: This technique refers to replacing certain parts in the product, process, or service with another to solve a problem. To carry out this technique, first consider the situation or problem in light of having many elements—multiple materials, several steps in the process, different times or places at which the process can occur, various markets for the product or service, and the like. Then consider that each and every one of these elements may be replaced with an alternative.

Combine: This technique suggests considering whether two products, ideas, or steps of a procedure may be combined to produce a single output or process that’s better in some way. Two existing products could create something new if put together. Two old ideas could merge into a fresh, groundbreaking one if fused in the right way. Two stages of a process may be melded into one to create a more streamlined, efficient procedure.

Adapt: This technique intends to adjust something in order to enhance it. It solves problems by improving how things are typically done, with adjustments ranging from something small to something radical. It challenges you to think of ways that you can adjust what’s already existing—be it a product, a process, or a manner of doing things—such that it solves a current problem and is better tailored to your needs.

Magnify or minimize: This technique involves either increasing or decreasing an element to trigger new ideas and solutions. Magnifying pertains to increasing something, such as by exaggerating a problem, putting more emphasis on an idea, making a product bigger or stronger, or doing a process more frequently.

Put to another use: This technique aims to figure out how an existing product or process may be used for a purpose other than what it’s currently being used for. It stimulates a discussion on the myriad of other ways you might find a use for anything from raw materials to finished products to discarded waste. It’s basically about finding a new purpose for old things.

Eliminate: This technique refers to identifying the unnecessary elements of a project or process so that they can be eliminated and thus provide for an improved outcome. It considers how a procedure may be streamlined by dropping redundant steps or how the same output may be produced despite cutting resources. Whatever resource is freed up may then be used to enhance creativity and innovation.

Reverse: This technique suggests switching up the order of the process steps in order to find solutions and maximize innovative potentials. Also known as the rearrange technique, this line of thinking encourages interchanging elements or considering the process backward in order to stimulate a fresh take on the situation.

Pioneered by Bob Eberle to spark creativity during brainstorming sessions, the SCAMPER method stands for seven techniques that help direct thinking toward novel ideas and solutions: (S) substitute, © combine, (A) adapt, (M) minimize/ magnify, (P) put to another use, (E) eliminate, and ® reverse. Collectively, these techniques are based on the idea that you can come up with something new by simply modifying the old things already present around you.

— Mental Models: 30 Thinking Tools that Separate the Average From the Exceptional. Improved Decision-Making, Logical Analysis, and Problem-Solving by Peter Hollins