THE IDEA BOX
Thinking within the box
Attribute Listing, Morphological Analysis and Matrix Analysis are good
techniques for finding new combinations of products or services.
• Morphological analysis (problem-solving) is a method for exploring all
possible solutions to a multi-dimensional, non-quantified problem.
• Fritz Zwicky, discovered what we now call dark matter, devised his own
method for systematically structuring and investigating the many possible
relationships of complex problems.
• The object is to break down the system, product, or process problem at
hand into its essential parameters or dimensions and to place them in a
multi-dimensional matrix. Then to find new ideas by searching the matrix
for creative and useful combinations. Some combinations may already
exist, others may not be possible or appropriate. The rest may represent
prospective new ideas.
• When to use it
– Use it when exploring new and different ideas.
– Use it to help unblock you when you are stuck.
– Use it to force a different way of thinking.
"... within the final and true
world image everything is
related to everything, and
nothing can be discarded a
priori as being unimportant."
(Fritz Zwicky: Discovery,
Invention, Research through
the Morphological Approach,
"Morphological analysis is simply an
ordered way of looking at things."
(Fritz Zwicky: "Morphological
Astronomy", The Observatory. Vol. 68,
No. 845, Aug. 1948.)
• We use Leonardo Da Vinci by way of example.
– Leonardo DaVinci’s grotesque heads and famous
caricatures are an example of the random
variations of the human face made up of different
combinations of a set number of features.
• This method could be used for any item.
• Random, or not so random features can be
listed to help establish new combinations, to
generate new ideas.
Leonardo DaVinci’s Idea Box
He would list facial characteristics (heads, eyes, nose, etc.) and then
beneath each list variations.
The Banana Umbrella:
Choose as many parameters as you
want, and then come up with as many
variations for each parameter as you
can think of.
To give you an estimate of the amount
of ideas you can come up with, a box
with ten parameters, each of which
has ten variations, produces 10 billion
combinations of the parameters and
The item The task
• Imagine you want to create a
• Use the morphological analysis
• Properties of this lamp may be
power supply, bulb type, light
intensity, size, style, finish,
material, shade, and so on.
• Set these out as column
headings on a table, and then
Thinking within the box
Can get a little rubbery.
Material Shape/Base Globe Switch Power
Tiny Wood Round Fluro On lead Electricity
BIG Metal Square Halogen On base Solar
Small Plastic Clamps LED On wall Gas
Held Fabric No base Candle Dial Pedal
Goat Flame Dimmer Pump
Rubber Feather Daylight No switch Human
in the dark)
Deconstructing the aspects – thinking about the parts/organising