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

Part 2: Intuitive creativity techniques – Three examples

My last blog entry began with a brief introduction into the world of creativity techniques. At this point, I would like to present three different intuitive creativity methods.


In 1964, Austro-Hungarian author Arthur Koestler mentioned the theory of bisociation for the first time in his work “The Act of Creation” The meaning is derived from the term “association”. However, it isn’t the linear mental abstraction or link that is in the foreground but rather the connection of aspects of different domains. More specifically, this means that problems are solved by observing two thought dimensions.

In the first stage, participants must (as often happens) become aware of what problem prevails such as a specific issue in product development. Subsequently, a second, completely independent domain, for instance from nature, is determined. From this basis, an association phase begins with the help of stimulus images. This is intended to evoke thoughts, ideas, or feelings in participants. In doing so, it is important to write down the results of the associations. After this, the results are reviewed for analogies that may manifest themselves in the form of joint principles and realizations between the original problem and the association phase. In the end, the analogies must be evaluated and the original domain adapted.

The creativity technique of bisociation is especially useful for problems in the advertising and marketing areas. However, using them also makes sense for technical problems. Strangely enough, humorists also pays attention to bisociation, as a certain comedy may develop through the analogy of two different and independent areas. However, you should schedule a lot of time for the application of the method in both cases.

For further information about the bisociation methodology, visit:

Headstand technique

The headstand technique promises a lot of good solutions, because it makes use of a human characteristic: the contradiction of statements! For our intellect, it is easier to find negative aspects for something than to find positive ones. This is where the creativity technique sets in.

You formulate a problem as a question and then make it the opposite. For instance, an automotive manufacturer will ask, “Why are the sales figures of vans decreasing on the home market?” Now turn the question around and ask, “How can I decrease the sales figures of vans on the home market?” You will realize that you will come up with a lot more answers. Possible answers may be (1) higher gasoline consumption, (2) less space, (3) inferior comfort… Then you just turn the answers around: (1) lower gasoline consumption, (2) more space, (3) high-class comfort… and the answers fit to the initial question perfectly.

If you want to find out more about the headstand technique, you can read more here:


In the 6-3-5 method, the name says it all. 6 participants must note down 3 ideas, each on a sheet of paper with 3 columns and 6 rows, and pass it on 5 times.

To begin with, each of the six participants jots down three ideas for a problem on a sheet of paper. Then the sheet of paper is passed around to the next person who writes down three new ideas in addition to those of the previous writer and, thus, further develops these ideas. This process is repeated five times so that each of the six participants has noted down three initial ideas and fifteen ideas for development by the end. Calculating this procedure to 30 minutes, you get a maximum of 108 ideas.

This method is similar to the brainwriting technique. However, the quality of the ideas is usually better due to the continuous development. The 6-3-5 method is simple and uncomplicated. It also doesn’t require a mediator.

A detailed description (incl. worksheet) of the 6-5-3 method can be found here: