Idea Generation
New product development, services, patents, value management
The morfological analysis is actually a group of methods that share the same structure. This method breaks down a system, product or process into its essential sub-concepts, each concept representing a dimension in a multi-dimensional matrix. Thus, every product is considered as a bundle of attributes. New ideas are found by searching the matrix for new combination of attributes that do not yet exist. It doesn’t provide any specific guidelines for combining the parameters. It tends to provide a large number of ideas.
The morphological analysis has several advantages over less structured approaches:

  • "It may help us to discover new relationships or configurations, which may not be so evident, or which we might have overlooked by other – less structured – methods.

  • It encourages the identification and investigation of boundary conditions, i.e. the limits and extremes of different contexts and factors.

  • It also has definite advantages for scientific communication and – notably – for group work.
  • "[source: ]
  • It allows us to find possible solutions to complex problems characterised by several parameters.

  • Richness of data – it can provide a multitude of combinations permutations not yet explored.

  • Systematic analysis – this technique allows for a systematic analysis of future structure of an industry (or system) and identification of key gaps.

  • "One apprehension that has been voiced against morphological analysis is that it is too structured – and that this could inhibit free, creative thinking."[source: ]
  • Morphological analysis may yield too many possibilities. Human judgments are still needed to direct the outcome. There are no guidelines for making combinations.
  • Human error – the development of morphological boxes requires critical judgments. If the underlying thought processes are not insightful, the outcomes of this method will be weak.

Morphological analysis was first applied to the aerospace industry by F. Zwicky, a professor at the California Institute of Technology. Zwicky chose to analyze the structure of jet engine technology. His first task was to define the important parameters of jet engine technology, which include thrust mechanism, oxidizer, and fuel type. He continued, in turn, to break each of these technologies down into its component parts. Having exhausted the possibilities under each parameter heading, the alternative approaches were assembled in all possible permutations: for example, a ramjet that used atmospheric oxygen and a solid fuel. For some permutations, a jet engine system already existed; for others, no systems or products were available. Zwicky viewed the permutations representing "empty cells" as stimuli for creativity and for each asked, "Why not?" For example, "Why not a nuclear-powered ceramic fan-jet?"

Morphological analysis is a proven ideation method that leads to "organized invention." The technique allows for two key elements:

  • a systematic analysis of the current and future structure of an industry area (or domain) as well as key gaps in that structure.
  • a strong stimulus for the invention of new alternatives that fill these gaps and meet any imposed requirements.

"Essentially, morphological analysis is a method for identifying and investigating the total set of possible relationships contained in any given, multi-dimensional problem complex that can be parameterized."[source: ]

In his main work on the subject, Discovery, Invention, Research through the Morphological Approach (Zwicky, 1966), Zwicky summarises the five (iterative) steps of the process:

First step

The problem to be solved must be very concisely formulated.

Second step

All of the parameters that might be of importance for the solution of the given problem must be localized and analysed.

Third step

The morphological box or multidimensional matrix, which contains all of the potential solutions of the given problem, is constructed.

Fourth step

All solutions contained in the morphological box are closely scrutinized and evaluated with respect to the purposes that are to be achieved.

Fifth step

The optimally suitable solutions are selected and are practically applied, provided the necessary means are available. This reduction to practice requires in general a supplemental morphological study.

Steps 2 and 3 form the heart of morphological analysis since Steps 1, 4, and 5 are often involved in other forms of analysis. Step 2, identification of parameters, involves studying the problem and present solutions to develop a framework. This step is useful to develop a relevance tree to help define a given topic. Once parameters are identified, a morphological box can be constructed that lists parameters along one dimension. The second dimension is determined by the nature of the problem.

Morphological box

"The approach begins by identifying and defining the parameters (or dimensions) of the problem complex to be investigated, and assigning each parameter a range of relevant ”values” or conditions. A morphological box – also fittingly known as a ”Zwicky box” – is constructed by setting the parameters against each other in an n-dimensional matrix. Each cell of the n-dimensional box contains one particular ”value” or condition from each of the parameters, and thus marks out a particular state or configuration of the problem complex.

This is the point: to examine all of the configurations in the field, in order to establish which of them are possible, viable, practical, interesting, etc., and which are not. In doing this, we mark out in the field what might be called a ”solution space”. The ”solution space” of a Zwickian morphological field consists of the subset of configurations, which satisfy some criteria.

However, a typical morphological field can contain between 50,000 and 5,000,000 formal configurations, far too many to inspect by hand. Thus, the next step in the analysis-synthesis process is to examine the internal relationships between the field parameters and "reduce" the field by weeding out all mutually contradictory conditions.

This is achieved by a process of cross-consistency assessment: all of the parameter values in the morphological field are compared with one another, pair-wise, in the manner of a cross-impact matrix. As each pair of conditions is examined, a judgment is made as to whether – or to what extent – the pair can coexist, i.e. represent a consistent relationship. Note that there is no reference here to causality, but only to internal consistency."[source: ]

  • Zwicky, F. (1969), Discovery, Invention, Research through the Morphological Analysis, The Macmillan Company.
  • Swedish Morphological Analysis (

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