Using SCAMPER to Play with your Business

Today’s post is a work in progress. I’ve been thinking about developing toys and games to apply lateral thinking to business. Today’s exploration is about SCAMPER, and Rory’s Story Cubes, and TRIZ.


Bob Eberle developed SCAMPER as an educational tool for improving imagination and creativity in children; the acronym stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Rearrange). The basic idea is to use each of the prompts as a starting point for exploring some idea, for example:

  • Challenge: how can we get executive teams to enjoy creating business strategy?
  • Combine: what if we combined executive away days with children’s parties…a bouncy castle might be a good ice breaker, asking children for their ideas might provide a new perspective, setting up a stall and telling a five year old your business strategy whilst doing some face painting might improve your elevator pitch

The thought process is a bit like a directed brainstorm, with lots of ideas flowing quite quickly. The prompts can be used to create a lot if varied ideas too (so that’s idea fluency and flexibility for the lateral thinking theorists). Bob also developed a stack of educational tools to help develop a sense of curiosity, risk taking, intuition and lots of other great attributes of a creative mind. Read more about it here.

What are Rory’s Story Cubes?

I discovered Rory’s Story Cubes recently. If you haven’t tried them already, they are FANTASTIC. I love them. Disclaimer: I have absolutely no link with the product, I just love them. Each of the 9 dice has a picture, roll them and use the pictures to make up stories. Too cool. I found out just now they have an iPhone app too. Back in 5 minutes whilst I download it.

What is PRIZM?

I won’t write about TRIZ because I don’t know enough about it, and it’s way too complicated to be of any real interest when applied to toys and games…or so I thought. A friend of mine introduced me to PRIZM, a simple board game taking some of the TRIZ inventive principles and guiding teams through a creative thinking process using a stack of pictorial cue cards (with cool story cubesque images by the way. It’s another great idea, invented by Anja Karina Pahl.

Playing with SCAMPER

So what if we invented some story cubes using a combination of SCAMPER and the TRIZ inventive principles? Simply roll the dice and follow the prompts as you disrupt parts of your business model. Working through SCAMPER, here are some (very rough, made up just now) ideas:

  • Substitute: images could be focused on using different materials, different suppliers, different processes, and different channels to market. Perhaps pictures of trucks, aeroplanes, wood, metal, glass, machinery, etc
  • Combine: images could focus on joining things together or bundling with competitor services. Perhaps pictures of welding, glue, or a bundle of sticks…
  • Adapt: images could focus on making stuff work differently e.g. using a telephone as a fire alarm. Perhaps images around making things vibrate, or burn, or transform in some way
  • Modify: images could focus on change, so we get images like cutting, or joining, or making bigger, or shrinking
  • Put to another use: images could focus on using things wrong, e.g. bananas to open locks and cell phones as door stops
  • Erase: images could focus on removing essential components, e.g. cars without wheels
  • Rearrange: images for reordering or rearranging existing features, e.g. mirrors, upside down houses etc

Any input from the TRIZ community, or SCAMPER experts, or people with business model canvas experience?  Let me know and I’ll develop this a bit further.


3 thoughts on “Using SCAMPER to Play with your Business

  1. Very interesting article I have never heard of the TRIZ method sounds quite puzzling. I am actually conducting some research in regards to the SCAMPER method and its applicability in the design world so thank you for sharing this.
    P.S.I am about to try Rory`s story cubes 🙂

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