Part 3: The discursive creativity techniques

Today, I would like to present two discursive creativity techniques: the morphological analysis and the cause-and-effect diagram (Ishikawa diagram).

The morphological analysis

The morphological matrix, also referred to as the morphological box, is probably the most wide-spread instrument of a discursive creativity technique and was developed by Swiss astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky (1898-1974). The morphological matrix is the core of a morphological analysis. Using it, problems can be broken down step-by-step and an overall solution can be found. More precisely, individual parameters and their alternative solutions are contrasted in the matrix. By combining the parameter solution fields, new approaches may appear. Thus, the application of morphological analysis is especially suited when developing new products and during the early innovation stage. Characteristics can thereby be represented in different possible combinations.

The procedure can be subdivided into five steps:

  1. Determine categories that are important for the issue
  2. Gather all possible alternative solutions/characteristics for the individual categories
  3. Transfer categories and alternative solutions/characteristics to a matrix
  4. Link all conceivable combinations of characteristics and test them for their functionality and sense
  5. Pursue and refine the best combined solution

The diagram below shows an example of a combined solution in a morphological matrix dealing with the development of a new portable music player:


Morphological box for developing a portable music player

The cause-and-effect diagram

When problems are to be analyzed in terms of their causes, it is useful to apply a precise analysis of the causal relationships. In the early 40s, Japanese scientist Kaoru Ishikawa developed a fishbone diagram (Ishikawa diagram) that allows you to graphically depict different influential factors of results. This lets problems be visualized and analyzed for their causes and effects. The results can serve as a foundation for discussion in a team or group. To begin with, when creating the diagram, participants must be clear about the fundamental problem and how it is defined. A horizontal arrow is then added to the problem, which is noted on the right underneath the effect. Instead of a problem, a goal may be given. In the second step, the main influential factors are determined. It is common to use the so-called four Ms (material, machine, method, man power). However, these can be extended as desired and are by no means obligatory. The main influential factors are represented diagonally as arrows, and the main causes extend as small arrows from them. The main cause can be determined, e.g., by using creativity techniques and may be accompanied by other secondary causes. This means that secondary causes influence main causes and the main causes influence the main influential factors that lead to a problem or goal.


Schematic portrayal of an Ishikawa diagram