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Morphological Matrix is an idea generation tool mainly utilized in design projects. The individual or group generates ideas by thinking about the various different possibilities or variations in the problem's characteristics

 

An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Aritra Das Gupta, Premkumar T, R Rajesh, Sourabh Nandi and Sudhir Gayakwad. Congratulations to all the winners.

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Q 296. What is a Morphological Matrix and how can it be used for problem solving?

 

 

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image.png.998c2ed07314658d33776525061db83b.png

 

Morphological matrix is a technique which were different alternatives are provided to a business problem 

Step 1 – Select the required Attribute :- list down all the critical attributes which are there are list the same down in a column

Step 2 – The next step is to make list of all the possible component for each attribute .

Step 3 – Combine components with Attributes and make as any combination as possible .the same can be done using brainstorming with the team and coming out with the best possible solution .Each of the component which has been identified by the team can be looking to further details to check what suits best.

This can be used in various scenarios :- 

1.    Film script to have different ending for the same story
2.    Theme of different TV series for an online streaming website
3.    Different features for a new product
4.    Creating different lesson plan for children 
5.    Creating list of different games that will be part of the party

Below is an example of a book ending & how a writer can choose what are the various endings . This will help him to be more creative and come out with a unique & unexpected ending which can make his book a best seller.
 

image.png.56c50073fd4fb2a049dca6d3c92be785.png

This can help an author to mix and match the ending and he has so many alternatives to end his story. He can change the ending as per his suitability . 

This can be one of the books ending :- 

 

image.png.115496cd46fe810c20d36e1b845f02fb.png

 

This helps to make alternative choices and will help to make the solution more effective.

 

image.png

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In the human history, most of the inventions are happened in unexpected situations.

Velcro the material used now in cloths idea came from burdock burrs that fixed in cloths of Swiss engineer George de Mestral Alps while he gone for hike in Alps.

It became popular after it was later adopted by NASA, and became commonly used on sneakers, jackets, and so much more.

Microwave oven invented by Percy Spencer an engineer, when he was working on a radar-related project. While testing a new vacuum tube, he discovered that a chocolate bar he had in his pocket melted more quickly than he would have expected.

 

Further investigated and started experimenting by aiming the tube at other items, such as eggs. Spencer concluded that the heat the objects experienced was from the microwave energy.

Wilson Great batch - invented pacemaker while working on, to build a heart rhythm recording device. The idea found by pulling the wrong one in the circuitry.  He installed the ill-fitting resistor and noticed that the circuit emitted electrical pulses. It made him think of the timing of the heartbeat. Of course further he worked on to reduce the size to fit for use.

All the above are evidence of inventions or solutions for a problem, able to evolve from linking functions & sub functions.

The Morphological Matrix is a systematic & also a creative tool which links functions & sub functions and leads to solution for a problem.

Morphological Matrix / Morphological Analysis / Morphological Chart recorded in a morphological overview method developed in the year 1960 by

Fritz Zwicky, an astronomer from Switzerland.

In this able to explore all possible solutions to a complex problem.

Let us see further step by step creation of Morphological Matrix:

1. Problem Description:

As usual like any problem solving approach, first step is to define the problem in precise way.

Example: Let consider a customized MATERIAL moving device.  Based on a number of conditions safety, power, transmission etc.,.

2. Recognize dimensions:

The outcome of this phase is to identify what is important for solving the problem.

To solve the problem, its to be divided into different dimensions further leads to potential parameters that can solve the problem.

The dimensions may means of the functions. Such as auto braking system in safety...

 

3. Properties:

There are more options, which is more directly related to number of Functions. Another key component in this phase is creativity. For example, the functions are Steerable, Ease Handling..

4. Combining:

By making random combinations, there are many solutions that may be applied. Further a Morphological Chart or Morphological Overview can be made, which is visualised as a matrix. By combining each dimension, all possible conditions are summarised and further it is possible to look at new ideas this creates.

5. Evaluation:

In this phase possible solutions should be evaluated. If a solution is not consistent or is unusable, then a cross will appear in the appropriate field of the matrix. That solution is excluded.

6. Implementation:

In this final phase, identified solution to be implemented.

 

To strengthen this approach its agreeable to include following tools:

Mind mapping, 6 thinking hats and Brainstorming at appropriate stages.

Initial framework for the above example as below:

MORPHOLOGICAL ANALYSIS CHART (IN GENERIC)

FUNCTIONS

MEANS

 

Function 1

Type 1  - Means to fulfil function 1

Type 2  - Means to fulfil function 1

Type 3  - Means to fulfil function 1

Type 4  - Means to fulfil function 1

 

Function 2

Type 1  - Means to fulfil function 2

Type 2  - Means to fulfil function 2

Type 3  - Means to fulfil function 2

Type 4  - Means to fulfil function 2

 

Function 3

Type 1  - Means to fulfil function 3

Type 2  - Means to fulfil function 3

Type 3  - Means to fulfil function 3

Type 4  - Means to fulfil function 3

 

Function 4

Type 1  - Means to fulfil function 4

Type 2  - Means to fulfil function 4

Type 3  - Means to fulfil function 4

Type 4  - Means to fulfil function 4

 

 

 

First level:

MORPHOLOGICAL ANALYSIS CHART FOR MATERIAL MOVING DEVICE

FUNCTIONS

MEANS

 

SAFETY

Auto Piloting

Controlled Speed Sensor

Overweight sensing alarm

360 degree visibility for Driver

 

LIFTING

Chain Operated

Hydraulic operated

Pneumatic operated

Magnetised

 

POWER

Electric

Gasoline

Petrol

Diesel

 

Second level:

Visualise the above with more possible to improve the flow of thinking.

Then arrive the list of solutions by checking the feasibility of implementation from the list of solutions.

Above matrix is simple and generic, but based on situation and expertise feasable to link across the rows and column.

The another key feature of this approach is easily adopt across all sectors verticals & horizontal such as manufacturing, service, New Product / Process developments

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Morphological Matrix is a good tool for generating a list of ideas and using them as a means to tackle your problem. Often there can be many ideas that can provide various solutions to a problem but we might be lacking the knowledge as how to provide. This is where this tool helps in.

 

What is to be done ?

  1. The first step is to define an attribute/characteristic which is vital to influence the problem at hand
  2. Second step is to define the values/components for each of the attribute/characteristic
  3. The third step is to randomize the values picked in each of the attribute/characteristic and combine them. This will help in generating a combination of values (ideas) from which we can pick the ideal one(s) that suits as better/best solution to our problems.

 

How to do?

  1. All attributes/characteristics are to be kept as the column headers in the matrix
  2. Place the corresponding values of each attribute under(beneath) the respective attribute’s  column. Values displayed in one column does not need to have necessarily any correlation with values displayed in other columns
  3. You can randomize the values in the columns, by any means. You can use a software or by say, rolling a dice, or using same combination of custom defined means…
  4. The values that you give in each column can be generic or specific depending upon how you want to classify your ideas or provide your inputs.

 

Benefits of using the tool:

  1. As you start jotting values/component under each attribute /characteristic , you tend to generate more ideas and by randomization of the values in each column, you get lot of combinations to tackle your problems.
  2. It helps in channelizing  (organizing) your thoughts to tackle your problem
  3. It helps in expediting(picking) the right solution(s) to address your problem, from a bunch of ideas

 

Let us see some examples to understand this tool.

 

Example1 – This is purposefully given for easier understanding of the Matrix

To explain this concept, let us consider a hypothetical (J) problem: How to get better response/feedback to your article or make your article getting selected as the best answer (to the weekly question posed) that are posted in this site

 

 

 

Article

 

Presentation

 

Content

 

Supporting Artefacts/Relevant Examples

 

1

Business Excellence Forum Question

Neat

Slightly out of context

Quotations from various eminent SMEs/scholars

2

Blog

Moderate

Highly Relevant

No examples or any explanation given

3

Discussion on Topics

Inadequate

Relevant

Provide multiple generic examples that may not portray a direct depiction of the problem

4

Interviews

Improper

Totally Irrelevant

Provide 1 or 2 examples specific to the context

 

Out of these various combinations, one could be, that a question can be answered with a neat presentation with relevance to the context with 1 or 2 examples to that context. 

 

Example2:   

A big IT team in one of the organisations was doing its agile work. It was going good until recently when it had its problems galore.  It had a huge backlog of defects, incidents, end user queries/request and some proof of concept (Research kind of) works that need to be addressed quickly by the team.

 

This backlog was an accumulation of all these issues over a period of time (the team could not able to finish the backlog items on time for whatever reasons). Now the team had to fix these issues. It sought the help of other teams as these work was in a managed services mode and the team wanted to leverage the help of other teams internally on this work.

 

The team lead came up with Morphological matrix. She listed out 3 columns (as who can be the persons who are needed) and then listed down the potential helpers under each column.  Once that was done, the random options were generated and when the entire random list was obtained, she got a very good idea as who can help on what category of work.   

 

 

 

Category of Work

Developers

Technical SMEs

Business SMEs

1

Defects

Junior  Java Developer

Solution Architect

Experienced developer with very good domain knowledge

2

Proof of Concept (POC) work

Senior  Java Developer

JEE Architect

Business Analyst Probationer

3

Incidents

Passionate (learning minded) - Junior Developer

Enterprise Architect

Experienced Business Analyst

4

End User Support

Senior Full Stack developer

Database Architect

Product Manager

 

For example, from the above table, the combination of Passionate Junior developer , JEE Architect and Experienced Business analyst was really helpful for many of the ‘Proof of Concept’ work which essentially was a research-oriented one and with the able guidance of the architect and experienced business analyst, the junior developer was able to go to the full distance to achieve the objective.   Passionate people are required for such explorative activities.  Same way, the lead was able to take better decisions in arriving at the right ideas and implementing them to tackle her problems.

 

Conclusion:

Often we may have a problem, for which there may be some ideas to address them. Sometimes a team may try to find best possible combination using this tool. There could be a scenario where more ideas could be generated and best possible combination(s) might be picked using this tool as per the laid out procedural steps. So what kind of situations, this tool can be used ? This tool can also be more useful when you want to have more ideas generated in a short span of time (which gives you a cushion with many ideas and addresses your problem permanently in the longer run), or say, in a new product or service as you want to have indigenous way of ideas, because of which you can get a foothold in a new market or establish you as a market leader in your industry. Thus here, we have seen how useful this tool has been when there was a problem and we had different ways to address it but how to address that was is a challenge. Then we derived combination of values using which we arrived at solution(s).

 

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Morphological Matrix

Morphological Analysis (MA) is coined by a Swiss-national astrophysicist - Fritz Zwicky. MA is a creative problem-solving technique for systematically structuring and exploring all the possible solutions to a multi-dimensional, complex problem and a powerful tool for generating creative ideas and designing a new product and service. For any significant part of business, success comes from agility and quality of decision-making. Such good decision-making leads to performance enhancements by diminishing rework and driving benefits to the bottom line faster. Lean Six Sigma, particularly Design for Six Sigma (DFSS), has tools that enhance agility and quality decisions. One of the tools is a Morphological Matrix, which will help identify potential solutions and define each resolution's working requirements. 

image.png.47ab4f446b5f456696ebfb65a1b5c808.png

In simple terms, the Morphological Matrix is a chart or design matrix (table) that aims to provide a framework within which new or different ideas can be produced or considered. The morphological approaches derive its name from the dictionary definition: "pertaining to the study of unorganized system or form."

 

The morphological Matrix is well-organized research for all workable resolutions to the problem. It starts by defining the solution's potential characteristics or parameters (the variables that require consideration). Each of these parameters must be mutually exclusive. All the mutually exclusive options in a very morphological matrix are identified for every parameter. Possible solutions to the matter are reached by combining different attributes of variables within the Matrix. The most appealing combination is then refined as possible solutions.

 

How and when to use it
By using the Morphological Matrix, mix and match or particular component alternatives generate many new possibilities. For example, a matrix containing four parameters with ten values for each parameter yields hundreds of exciting combinations. Although many of these will be trivial, a few exciting possibilities are likely to arise worthy of consideration. 

 

The Morphological Matrix can quickly stimulate new thinking by combining and re-combining elements from numerous components of the existing product, service or task, general characteristics, attributes. Therefore, factors that are related that might not be considered together in any other way. To use the technique, first list attributes of the product, service, what different attributes we are examining. Attributes are parts, properties, qualities, or design elements. However, attributes might be components, assemblies, dimensions,  style, color, weight, service speed, and skills.

For example, a pencil's attributes would be shaft material, lead material, the width of lead, the hardness of lead, quality, weight, color, shape, price. A film or movie would have attributes of characters, scrip, action, locations, soundtrack. A new product might have attributes of fragrance, viscosity, flavor, portability & price. 

 

To produce some Morphological Matrix, we need to draw a per table using these attributes as column headings. Within the columns, write down as many variations of the attribute as possible, which might be an exercise that benefits from brainstorming. Depending on the situation, the resultant table might be many columns white and many rows deep. However, it is often sensible to restrict the subject's attributes somewhere between 5 and 8 items. The variation of each attribute to four to six will usually yield lots of interesting possible combinations.

 

Benefits of the tool
The morphological analysis provides adapted options on original combinations rather than producing entirely new ideas or products. A morphological matrix can thereby help individuals:
- to create a range of potential combinations (in a highly visual way) that might not be recognized by any other reasonable means.
- generate innovative approaches, using precise attributes and variations.

 

Drawbacks/Things to watch out for
The morphological Matrix tool is directed more at tailoring existing or known items/attributes. In this understanding, it is an optimization tool that is also vital to ensure that the table items are carefully selected. If this is not the case, the consequences will make no sense or have no reasonable use, and a great deal of time could be wasted. 

 

A practical example of the tool
The Wine bottle could consequently go from conventional glass, slim necked, 1 pint, corked to 120ml., Plastic can with ring pull top. Furthermore, if applied to a standard beer bottle, we could change from short, 350ml. Brown, smooth, pressed cap to an entirely new curved configuration, 250ml., Crystal, etched, pull top. The whole range of new product container possibilities, therefore, emerges.

 

image.png.0a09a922c5bdeadf3c0a1a6b8d61c18e.png

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When I was working as maintenance head, I was facing a very critical challenge. In one of our sub assembly one small pinion was fixed at one of the end of a spline shaft with the help of a small thick washer and an allen bolt (M6).

Problem – As there were alternating load on the spline shaft bolt used to get loosen and washer getting dislocated creating major accident in running machine. Or sometimes head of a allen bolt breaking and creating major accident. There used to be loss of productivity due to machine stoppage, cost of breaking spares and total used to be in the range of Rs. 70 to 75 thousands. It used to happen 3 to 4 times in a month. Huge loss.

Solution – I called a meeting of all supervisors and operators working on the machine and started discussing the problem and solution.

ü  We created a table consisting of different spares of the subassembly on right side.

ü  Creating attributes those can be worked upon those spares.

ü  Started combining the different options of spares and different actions of them.

ü  Kept recording all possible options.

ü  Every option was evaluated for feasibility and all functional aspects.

ü  It gave a very creative solution which we never thought of.

Remove washer – Add mechalock – redesign pinion – redesign spline shaft

This worked nicely and the problem was just eliminated.

Who played the magic?

SrNo

Attribute

Spare 1

Spare2

Spare3

Spare4

1

Fine Setting

NA

NA

Do

Do

2

Change the setting

Do

Do

NA

Do

3

Redesign some spares

Do

Do

Do

Do

4

Remove some spares

Do

NA

NA

Do

5

Add new spares

Along with Spare 1

Along with Spare 2

Along with spare 3

Along with spare 4

*** 1. Considering current situation and feasibility we have purposely kept few spares untouched.

2. For service industry same matrix by replacing word ‘Spare’ by ‘Option’ may work to solve the challenge.

The matrix we discussed the different combinations we gave thought played the driving force creatively to arrive at an innovative solution. It led improving productivity along with reducing financial losses.

This matrix we discussed!

 

 

This innovative and creative combination was given by the matrix – Popularly known as

Morphological Matrix!

A Morphological matrix is a innovative and creative tool to facilitate generating hundreds of ideas. It is always not possible to think very creatively and out of the box just looking at the challenge. The matrix help generating ideas to solve the problem, find creative option for new design, new plan.

Steps in Morphological Matrix-

1. Creation of the Morphological Matrix or Chart -

SrNo

Attribute

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Option 4

1

Function 1

Combination1

 

 

 

2

Function 2

 

Combination1

 

 

3

Function 3

 

 

Combination1

 

.

……

 

 

 

Combination1

N

Function N

 

 

 

 

 

As per the assignment or task in hand we have to make the table as above.

·        The right hand side gives different options.

·        The lift hand side column consists of different attributes related to the task for solution.

·        Once the basic frame work of attributes is prepared start filling different options. This could be a group activity. Explore any divergent idea, it may sound stupid. Fill the table with all possible and even not possible options. We don’t know things initially looking impossible becomes possible with other combinations,

There is no restriction to the number of rows and column in the table shown above. As many number of cells in the table that much possible options can be generated.

This could be visual also as shown below for selecting the best option for Chair design.
image.png
 

2. Explore creativity –

Now starting from the first column of options combine with different other columns and start generating different solutions in a particular sequence.

·        Keep generating different combinations of columns and enter them in a table.

·        Evaluate each idea generated for feasibility after deep discussion.

·        This gives really unexpected combinations which looks to be very feasible, economical and most importantly innovative and creative.

Conclusion:-

While solving any problem, generating new plan, design it is always not possible to think divergently and explore something creative without a systematic framework. With the frame work of Morphological Matrix – consisting of different attributes, aspects of the design, plan or problem etc and divergent options. By combining different options and evaluating their feasibility we get many more options. One just need to evaluate the best possible option from them.

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