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Individual Creativity Exercise

Morphological Analysis

Brief description of creativity technique

Morphological Analysis is a product/process development tool which delineates elements of a product and then combines them into new and unique solutions. Morphological Analysis uses observation and analysis of different elements of a product/process/service as the starting point for finding solutions through novel combinations.

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Exercise for skills at the level of:

Individual

Leadership

Team

Organization

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Learning objectives of the exercise

Many problems challenge us with too many possible solutions, only some of which may be new and useful. The technique helps to systematically arrange appropriate and promising aspects and combine them systematically in order to identify new and suitable combinations. When implemented in the classroom, students practice describing a problem in terms of its aspects or dimensions and ultimately uncover original and innovative solutions.

 

The application of morphological analysis contributes to the development of soft skills that are greatly needed in work places, including problem-solving, divergent thinking, analytic and synthetic skills, and attention to detail.

 

The technique can be applied for different situations in work life, education and personal life. It is suitable for cases with lots of tangible information in hand and when processing issues within a restricted frame or with people who normally are not used to work with creativity.

 

The method opens minds to more creative perspectives by suggesting alternatives solutions that can be constructed. It is not pure creativity which starts from scratch but creativity obtained through divergent thinking options and simply combining them. This way the method is able to enhance creative thinking in individuals who may not be naturally creative or limit their creativity.

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Skills developed/enhanced by the exercise

Adaptability

Communication

Collaboration

Curiosity

Initiative

Leadership

Problem-solving

Self-discipline

Tolerance of ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity

Others, please specify

Attentiveness

Confidence

Critical Thinking

Divergent thinking skills

Inventiveness

Negotiating skills

Resilience

Strategic thinking

Visualisation

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Duration

In person: ½ hour; varies by subject of study

 

Online: 15 minutes synchronous presentation of the technique and assignment; 15 minutes + for students to complete activity

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How many people are needed?

One, or more

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Materials required

In person: PowerPoint, template, paper + pen/pencil

 

Online: PowerPoint, template

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Instructions for conducting the exercise

Step 1. Present the technique and template with case studies.

Step 2. Provide or have students choose specific problems to be solved.

 

Step3. Instruct students to determine criteria/ characteristics/ parameters of the problem and choose those that might apply to solutions. This can be done as brainstorming and/or in pairs or small groups.

 

Step 3. Students choose viable criteria/ characteristics/ parameters to fill template grid with lists of parameters arranged along the axes. (Categories/elements are listed across the horizontal axis as column headings. Variations are listed as row headings.) Now combinations of categories/elements with variations can be identified within the grid. (Not all of the columns and rows in the template have to be utilized. Words and/or images may be used to describe the combinations.)

 

Step 4. Eliminate impossible or undesirable combinations. Choose the most appropriate, viable combinations to change systems or subsystems or ideas. Put aside others.

 

Step 5. Look for and develop solutions by systematic analysis of the combinations.

 

Step 6. Students discuss results: which combinations seemed viable or not and why.

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Case study from desk research

This technique is commonly used in product development and design studies. Hence, it can be applied to various activities. The example below could be one of these.

This method can be used for example to think about updating a lesson plan.

Hence updating the delivery of biology classes would take place as blended learning, partly in class, online and in nature, and the main evaluation, besides class activity would use exams and learning diaries. Teachers could build content around this structure.

  • The morphological approach to engineering design (1963): The technique was applied by a pioneering engineering firm – the Norris Brothers in Sussex, England – in a historical milestone in engineering design: the development of the Bluebird hydroplane and cars. Ken Norris outlined his interpretation of the morphological approach to engineering design, giving various examples to showcase its strengths and potential weaknesses. Norris proposed establishing standard terms for the design process in general and the morphological approach in particular in order to aid education and discussion. He also proposed investigating the possibility of using computers to “separate and collate solutions so that the elimination procedure becomes more automatic and less dependent upon the engineer’s intuition”. 

  • Morphological analysis for product design (2000): The morphological analysis was studied and applied in Computer-Aided Design (CAD). It contributed highly to the product optimisation while decreasing design cost and time. 

  • Design of production systems (2012): The method was applied to production process design. In this analysis, the basic functions of a production system were defined, and lists of all possible variations were created (building elements or subsystems). Then all the possible combinations of the building elements were generated. The next step was to identify the applicable variants in practice (“acceptable solutions”). The process was iterative to select final variants of production. 

  • See an example of images used for analysis. Morphological Table for a vegetable collection system.