|What is it?
by Fritz Zwicky of the California Institute of Technology in the late 1940s, morphological
analysis (MA) is a method for structuring and investigating the total set of relationships
contained in multi-dimensional, non-quantifiable, problem complexes. The method was given
its first advance computer support in 1995 by Tom Ritchey, of the Swedish Defence Research
Agency in Stockholm.
|Why is it
makes it possible to give structure - in the form of an ordered parameter space - to
highly complex problem areas which contain many disparate variables. These can involve
technical, social, political and ethical issues which must be treated together in order to
gain a proper perspective on the policy issues.
It is especially useful in
group work and for scientific communication. It encourages the investigation of boundary
conditions and it virtually compels practitioners to examine numbers of contrasting
configurations and policy solutions. It can also be used as a starting point for other
modeling methods such as AHP and Bayesian Network modeling.
|When to use it?
there is a need to structure and analyze complex social-technical and organizational
planning issues, sometimes referred to as "wicked problems" and "social
|How to use it?
goes through cycles of analysis and synthesis, the basic method for developing scientific
models. The analysis phase begins by identifying and defining the most important
dimensions of the problem complex to be investigated. Each of these dimensions is then
given a range of relevant values or conditions. Together, these make up the variables or
parameters of the problem to be structured. A morphological field is constructed by
setting the parameters against each other, in parallel columns, representing an
n-dimensional configuration space. A particular constructed "field
configuration" (morphotype) is designated by selecting a single value from each of
the variables. This marks out a particular state or (formal) solution within the problem
The next step in the analysis-synthesis process is to reduce the
total set of (formally) possible configurations in the morphological field to a smaller
set of internally consistent configurations representing a "solution space".
This is achieved by a process of cross-consistency assessment (CCA). 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 direction or causality, but only to
mutual consistency. Using this technique, a typical morphological field can be reduced by
up to 90 or even 99%, depending on the problem structure.
There are two principal types of inconsistencies involved: purely logical
contradictions (i.e. those based on the nature of the concepts involved); and empirical
constraints (i.e. relationships judged be highly improbable or implausible on empirical
grounds). Normative constraints can also be applied, although these must be used with
great care, and clearly designated as such.
When this solution (or outcome) space is synthesized, the resultant
morphological field becomes an inference model, in which any parameter (or multiple
parameters) can be selected as "input", and any others as "output".
Thus, with computer support, the field can be turned into a laboratory with which one can
designate initial conditions and examine alternative solutions.
|Food for Thought !
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