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Morphological analysis (problem-solving)

Morphological analysis (problem-solving)

Morphological analysis or general morphological analysis is a method developed by Fritz Zwicky (1967, 1969) for exploring all possible solutions to a multi-dimensional, non-quantified complex problem. [1]


General morphology was developed by Fritz Zwicky , the Bulgarian-born, Swiss- based astrophysicist based at the California Institute of Technology . Among others, Zwicky applied morphological analysis (MA) to astronomical studies and the development of jet and rocket propulsion systems. As a problem-structuring and problem-solvingTechnical, MA was designed for multi-dimensional, non-quantifiable problems where causal modeling and simulation do not function well, or at all. Zwicky developed this approach to address seemingly non-reducible complexity: using the technique of cross-compliance assessment (CCA) (Ritchey, 1998), the system permits for reduction by identifying the possible solutions that actually exist, eliminating the illogical solution. grid box rather than reducing the number of variables involved. A detailed introduction to morphological modeling is given in Ritchey (2002, 2006). A summary of some 80 published articles exemplifying the various applications of general morphology, including engineering design, organizational and policy analysis, is available in Álvarez & Ritchey (2015).

Morphological analysis of real-world problems

Consider a complex, real-world problem, like those of marketing or making policies for a nation, where there are many governing factors, and most of them can not be .

The conventional system would be unavoidable, but it would be necessary to isolate the vital parts (dropping the ‘trivial’ components) for their contributions to the output and to solve the problem. The disadvantage of this method is that real-world scenarios do not behave rationally: more often than not, a simplified model will break down when the contribution of the ‘trivial’ components becomes significant. Also, importantly, the behavior of many components of the world, and their relations with, other components – that can be seen as a minor before the analysis.

Morphological analysis, on the other hand, does not drop any of the components of the system itself, but works backwards from the output towards the system internals. [2] Again, the interactions and relationships get to play and their effects are accounted for in the analysis.


  1. Jump up^ Ritchey, T. (1998). General Morphological Analysis: A general method for non-quantified modeling.
  2. Jump up^ Modeling Complex Socio-Technical Systems Using Morphological Analysis (Ritchey 2003-06)[1]

Further reading

  • Ritchey, T. (1998). General Morphological Analysis: A general method for non-quantified modeling .
  • Ritchey, T. (2006). “Problem Structuring Using Computer-Aided Morphological Analysis”. Journal of the Operational Research Society (JORS), Vol. 57, No. 7.
  • Ritchey, T. (2011) Wicked Problems / Social Masses: Decision Support Modeling with Morphological Analysis . Berlin: Springer.
  • Zwicky, F. (1969). Discovery, Invention, Research – Through the Morphological Approach . Toronto: The Macmillan Company.
  • Zwicky, F. & Wilson A. (eds.) (1967). New Methods of Thought and Procedure: Contributions to the Symposium on Methodologies . Berlin: Springer.
  • Jones, JC (1981). Design Methods . Wiley.
  • Ayres, UK (1969). Technological Forecasting and Long-Time Planning . McGraw-Hill.
  • Duczynski, GA (2016). “Morphological analysis as an aid to organisational design and transformation” . Futures, In Press, August 2016.
  • Duczynski, GA Jablonski, J. Huddleston, S. (2015). Sustainability of the Afghan Security Forces: A Wicked Problem . Counter Terrorism Exchange, Vol 5, No 1.
  • Duczynski, GA (2000). A Practitioner’s Experience of Using Anomaly Relaxation Field (FAR) to Craft Futures . Futures Research Quarterly, Vol 16, No 3.
  • Duczynski, GA (2004). Approaches to Economic Development for Indigenous Peoples: A Case Study of the Noongar Aboriginals of Australia . Futures, 36.
  • Levin, Mark Sh. (2015). Modular systems design and evaluation . Springer.
  • Álvarez, A. & Ritchey, T. (2015). “Applications of General Morphological Analysis: From Engineering Design to Policy Analysis”, Acta Morphologica Generalis, Vol.4 No.1.