One of the characteristics that makes us creative as human is our brain’s ability to associate one idea or concept with another. This power of association has been responsible for many creative breakthroughs throughout history.
That’s why using words as stimuli is a great way to come up with divergent ideas. One of the most popular creative problem-solving techniques is based upon this principle: SCAMPER, which stands for: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify/Magnify/Minify, Put to Other Uses, Eliminate and Reverse/Rearrange. It gives you a powerful, memorable toolkit of methods to manipulate your ideas and improve them.
I recently got to thinking about SCAMPER and wondering if there’s a way to make it bigger, stronger and more versatile. As I was brainstorming how to approach this, it occurred to me that all seven words in the SCAMPER mnemonic are action verbs. What if I had access to an expanded list of action verbs that I could use as creative stimuli?
I did a Google search, and discovered that there are numerous action verb lists that are designed to help job seekers be more descriptive in crafting their resumes. Finding one that was more general in nature was a little harder, but I did find this one that contains over 1,000 verbs, arranged alphabetically.
Here’s how to use this word list for brainstorming:
- Write down your problem or challenge.
- Select a word at random from the list. Write down any ideas that occur to you.
- If a word doesn’t prompt any ideas, select another one at random from the list.
Here’s an example of how you can use this brainstorming technique:
Let’s say I’m trying to increase the effectiveness and engagement of the content I create for my employer. I’ve stated that challenge at the top of a piece of paper, and have selected the word “inject” at random from the list. This suggests several ideas:
- Inject humor into my writing
- Inject stories into my writing, to get readers more engaged with it
- What if I injected myself with truth serum? My writing would be more direct, with a stronger, no B.S. point of view. Now what if I incorporated that “attitude” into my day-to-day writing?
Do you see how this can work for you?
Don’t try to force word associations down a specific path. Let them go where they may. Don’t self-censor, because that tends to crush your creative energy. Write down every idea, no matter how crazy. You can always evaluate and judge them later.
With over 1,000 action verbs to choose from, you should find plenty of creative inspiration, no matter what type of problem you’re attempting to solve.