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Morphological Analysis


Creative tools > Morphological Analysis

When to use it | How to use it | Example | How it works | See also


When to use it

Use it when exploring new and different ideas.

Use it to help unblock you when you are stuck.

Use it to force a different way of thinking.



      X    Long



  X        Psychological



  X        Group


How to use it

Define the problem

Identify the objective of the creative session, defining the problem in a short and clear statement.

Identify attributes and values

List the things about the situation that can be varied or changed in some way. Select a subset of two to six variables to investigate further. These will normally be significant parts of the situation.

For each of the variables from step 3, list possible values they may have, including those away from the conventional values (you can be creative at this step too).

Combing items

Find a way of combining items from the lists you have created. If there are only two lists, then a matrix may be used as in the example below. Another way is to have six variable in each list and throw one die per list to select items to combine. You could also write them on cards and pick them from six ‘hats’ (the methods are as many as you can imagine).

Repeatedly combine selections of ideas generated, forcing all items together to build a creative solution. Do not worry too much at this time if the ideas are not particularly feasible as they may be developed at a later stage or used to trigger other creative possibilities.

Select ideas to use or develop into practical solutions to your problem.


An artist, looking for new ways of creating artwork, identifies two attributes, 'materials' and 'canvas', and then lists the values these can take (e.g. 'ink' is a value of 'materials'). She then brings these together in the table below to explore possible combinations.


Materials Canvas
Paper Wall Window Wood
Ink Japanese style

Blotting paper

Graffiti Painted glass Marquetry

Bleed rates

Oil   Murals Motor oil floating in glass tank  
Dye Appliqué with dyed strips   Stained glass  
Clay   Applied directly over brickwork   Wood and clay sculptures
Leaves Glued then painted over Blown onto glued wall Translucent colored leaves  


How it works

Despite its wonderful name (given to it by its originator, Fritz Zwicky), Morphological Analysis works through very simple processes, using two common principles of creativity: decomposition and forced association. The problem is broken down into component variables and possible values identified for each. The association principle is then brought into play by ‘banging together’ multiple combinations of these values.

See also

Decomposition, Forced association, Chunking


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