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Strategizing Resilience: Empowering Executives with the 'Putting Yourself Out of Business' Exercise

In a time where staying ahead of the curve has become imperative for businesses, the innovative team-building activity, "Putting Yourself Out of Business," offers a strategic solution. Designed specifically for executive peer groups, this approach focuses on proactively identifying and mitigating potential vulnerabilities within a company, serving as a bridge between the need for foresight and actionable strategies for resilience.

The activity combines the rigor of strategic planning with the dynamism of creative problem-solving, offering a framework to bolster team cohesion, strategic alignment, and business resilience. Tailored to fit the unique needs of each team and business context, this activity leverages a stepwise approach that blends traditional team-building strategies with the SCAMPER methodology. Continue reading for an overview of the “Putting Yourself Out of Business” activity—an engaging way to ensure that executive teams are not just prepared for the future but actively shaping it in their favor.

Conducting the activity

The key to executing the “Putting Yourself Out of Business” activity is to balance the seriousness of the task with an environment that encourages creative and critical thinking. To structure this activity effectively, consider the following stepwise approach, inspired by various team-building strategies:

  • Preparation and Mindset Setting: Initiate by fostering the appropriate mindset, highlighting the significance of being open-minded, creative, and introspective. This approach is pivotal in creating a conducive environment for sharing innovative ideas.

  • Vulnerability Identification (Individual Reflection): Allocate specific time for each executive to engage in individual reflection, with the objective of identifying and documenting perceived business vulnerabilities. These could range from emerging market trends and technological shifts to internal weaknesses and external threats.

  • Group Discussion and Sharing: Conduct a group discussion where each participant shares their insights. This crucial step amalgamates diverse viewpoints, facilitating a comprehensive understanding of the business's potential vulnerabilities.

  • Innovative Problem-Solving Workshop: Organize a workshop inspired by successful innovation sessions, focusing on brainstorming and applying creative problem-solving methodologies such as Mind Mapping, the SCAMPER Technique, or Reverse Brainstorming. The goal is to encourage creative thinking to address the identified vulnerabilities.

  • Scenario Planning and Strategy Development: Engage the group in Scenario Planning to discuss various future scenarios and their potential impacts on the business. This phase involves strategizing to mitigate risks and leverage opportunities.

  • Action Plan Development: Wrap up the session by creating a practical action plan. Assign responsibilities and establish timelines for the implementation of the strategies devised during the workshop.

  • Follow-up and Review: Plan regular follow-up meetings to assess the implementation progress and adjust the plan as needed, ensuring ongoing improvement and strategic alignment.

The SCAMPER methodology

The SCAMPER methodology is a powerful and versatile tool for creative problem-solving and innovation. Originating from the minds of Alex Osborn and further developed by Bob Eberle, SCAMPER stands as an acronym that guides users through a series of thought-provoking questions to generate new ideas and improve existing products, services, or processes (Altiparmak, 2021). Each letter in SCAMPER represents a different tactic for thinking creatively:

  • Substitute: Consider what elements can be replaced in the current situation.

  • Combine: Explore the possibilities of merging two or more components to create something new.

  • Adapt: Look at how elements can be adjusted or modified to serve a different purpose or to improve their function.

  • Modify: Think about ways to change, enlarge, or reduce components to create a different outcome.

  • Put to another use: Identify how existing elements can be used in new ways or for different purposes.

  • Eliminate: Consider what might happen if certain parts were removed or simplified.

  • Rearrange: Explore the outcomes of changing the order of things or flipping them around to see things from a new perspective.

By applying the SCAMPER methodology, individuals and teams can break out of conventional thinking patterns, uncover hidden opportunities, and drive significant improvements or innovations within their organizations. It's particularly effective in exercises like "Putting Yourself Out of Business," where the objective is to identify vulnerabilities and creatively seek ways to address them, ensuring a business remains competitive and resilient in the face of challenges. 

Integrating the SCAMPER methodology

Consider the following steps when integrating the SCAMPER methodology:

  1. Introduction to SCAMPER: Start with an overview of the SCAMPER technique, highlighting its components: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Rearrange. Emphasize how this method fosters innovative thinking about products, services, or processes.

  2. Dividing into Small Groups: Break the executive team into smaller, more manageable groups. This approach promotes deeper discussion and ensures each member's ideas are heard and valued.

  3. Assignment of SCAMPER Elements: Distribute one or two elements of the SCAMPER strategy among the groups. For instance, one group might explore 'Substitute' and 'Combine,' while another delves into 'Adapt' and 'Modify,' focusing their brainstorming around these themes.

  4. Identification of Problems: Direct each group to pinpoint existing vulnerabilities or areas for improvement within the business or its market. Encourage comprehensive thinking across various domains such as internal operations, customer experiences, product offerings, and market trends.

  5. Application of SCAMPER: Guide each group to employ their assigned SCAMPER elements to the challenges identified. A group working on 'Substitute,' for instance, should consider potential replacements in the business model, while the 'Adapt' group looks into modifying current processes or products for new applications.

  6. Idea Generation and Discussion: Allocate sufficient time for brainstorming and idea development within groups, promoting a culture of creativity and open dialogue. Remind participants that all ideas, no matter how unconventional, are welcome at this stage.

  7. Presentation of Group Findings: Have each group share their insights and solutions with the entire team, detailing the identified vulnerabilities and their SCAMPER-based approaches to addressing them.

  8. Collaborative Review and Synthesis: Facilitate a group-wide discussion post-presentations to collectively refine, merge, or build upon the proposed ideas, leveraging the diverse perspectives present.

  9. Development of Actionable Strategies: Use the refined ideas as a foundation to formulate practical strategies, possibly involving prioritization of ideas, creation of specific task forces, or establishing timelines for exploration and implementation.

  10. Documentation and Follow-Up: Ensure a thorough documentation of all proposed strategies and ideas. Designate individuals or teams to oversee the execution of these plans, including the arrangement of periodic reviews to assess progress and make adjustments as necessary.

By using the SCAMPER methodology in this way, you not only engage the team in creative thinking but also direct this creativity towards practical and strategic outcomes that can enhance the resilience and future-proofing of your business.


Altiparmak, T., & Eryilmaz-Muştu, O. (2021). The effects of SCAMPER technique activities in the 8th grade simple machines unit on students’ academic achievement, motivation and attitude towards science lessons. International Journal of Educational Methodology, 7(1), 155-170.

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