Morphological analysis (problem-solving)


Morphological analysis or general morphological analysis is a method for exploring possible solutions to a multi-dimensional, non-quantified complex problem. It was developed by Fritz Zwicky.[1]


General morphology was developed by Fritz Zwicky, the Bulgarian-born, Swiss-national astrophysicist based at the California Institute of Technology. Among others, Zwicky applied morphological analysis (MA) to astronomical studies and jet and rocket propulsion systems. As a problem-structuring and problem-solving technique, MA was designed for multi-dimensional, non-quantifiable problems where causal modelling and simulation do not function well, or at all.

Zwicky developed this approach to address seemingly non-reducible complexity: using the technique of cross-consistency assessment (CCA),[1] the system allows for reduction by identifying the possible solutions that actually exist, eliminating the illogical solution combinations in a grid box rather than reducing the number of variables involved.[2] General morphology has found use in fields including engineering design, technological forecasting, organizational development and policy analysis.[3]

Decomposition vs MAEdit

Problems that involve many governing factors, where most of them cannot be expressed numerically can be well suited for MA.

The conventional approach is to break a complex system into parts, isolate the parts (dropping the 'trivial' elements) whose contributions are critical to the output and solve the simplified system for desired scenarios. The disadvantage of this method is that many real-world phenomena do not have obviously trivial elements and cannot be simplified.

Morphological analysis works backwards from the output towards the system internals without a simplification step.[4] The system's interactions are fully accounted for in the analysis.


  1. ^ a b Ritchey, T. (1998). General Morphological Analysis: A general method for non-quantified modeling.
  2. ^ Ritchey, T (July 2006). "Problem structuring using computer-aided morphological analysis". Journal of the Operational Research Society. 57 (7): 792–801. doi:10.1057/palgrave.jors.2602177. ISSN 0160-5682.
  3. ^ Álvarez, A. & Ritchey, T. (2015). "Applications of General Morphological Analysis: From Engineering Design to Policy Analysis", Acta Morphologica Generalis, Vol.4 No.1.
  4. ^ Modelling Complex Socio-Technical Systems Using Morphological Analysis (Ritchey 2003-06)[1]

Further readingEdit

  • Ritchey, Tom (2011), "Modelling Complex Policy Issues with Morphological Analysis", Wicked Problems – Social Messes, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, pp. 31–37, doi:10.1007/978-3-642-19653-9_4, ISBN 9783642196522
  • Zwicky, Fritz; Page, T. (1969-03-21). "Discovery, Invention, Research, through the Morphological Approach". Science. New York: Macmillan. 163 (3873): 1317–1318. doi:10.1126/science.163.3873.1317. ISSN 0036-8075.
  • Wilson, Albert (1967), "Epilogue", New Methods of Thought and Procedure, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, pp. 333–338, doi:10.1007/978-3-642-87617-2_17, ISBN 9783642876196
  • Jones, J. C. (July 1981). "Design methods and theories". Design Studies. 2 (3): 176. doi:10.1016/0142-694x(81)90074-0. ISSN 0142-694X.
  • Shubik, M. (1969-12-05). "Technological Forecasting and Long-Range Planning. Robert U. Ayres. McGraw-Hill, New York, 1969. xviii + 238 pp., illus. $12.50". Science. 166 (3910): 1257–1258. doi:10.1126/science.166.3910.1257. ISSN 0036-8075.
  • {{Cite web|title=Morphological analysis as an aid to organisational design and transformation|last=Duczynski|first=G.A.|date=2016|website=*Duczynski, G.A.; Jablonski, J.; Huddleston, V (February 2015). "Sustainability of the Afghan Security Forces: A Wicked Problem". Counter Terrorism Exchange. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  • Duczynski, G.A. (2000). "A Practitioner's Experience of Using Field Anomaly Relaxation (FAR) to Craft Futures" (PDF). Futures Research Quarterly. 16 (3).
  • Duczynski, Guy (October 2004). "Systems approaches to economic development for indigenous people: a case study of the Noongar Aboriginals of Australia". Futures. 36 (8): 869–888. doi:10.1016/j.futures.2004.01.001. ISSN 0016-3287.
  • Levin, Mark Sh. (2014-09-06), "Modular Systems, Combinatorial Engineering Frameworks", Modular System Design and Evaluation, Decision Engineering, Springer International Publishing, pp. 1–10, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-09876-0_1, ISBN 9783319098753
  • Duczynski, Guy (January 2018). "Investigating traffic congestion: Targeting technological and social interdependencies through general morphological analysis". Technological Forecasting and Social Change. 126: 161–167. doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2017.05.019. ISSN 0040-1625.

See alsoEdit