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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Morphological Analysis for Wicked Problem Solving

A morphology is a set of structures that are used to define a category.  It is often used in one of my interest areas: Botany.  See the image on the right, where it defines leaf structures. It turns out that it can also be used to define and solve difficult, 'wicked' problems that are numerically or statically ill defined.    Problems that include choices among consumers, or policy definitions, or strategic choices.   I was recently re-introduced to the idea by Tom Ritchey and discovered that the method was more mature than I thought.  Useful for problems that are hard to quantify but whose solution spaces need to be explored.  I am further examining, if you have any comments, please pass along.  In a recent paper: 

General morphological analysis (GMA) is a method for structuring and investigating the total set of relationships contained in multidimensional, usually non-quanti´Čüable, problem complexes. Pioneered by Fritz Zwicky at the California Institute of Technology in the 1930s and 1940s, it relies on a constructed parameter space, linked by way of logical relationships, rather than on causal relationships and a hierarchical structure. During the past 10 years, GMA has been computerized and extended for structuring and analysing complex policy spaces, developing futures scenarios and modelling strategy alternatives. This article gives a historical and theoretical background to GMA as a problem structuring method, compares it with a number of other ‘soft-OR’ methods, and presents a recent application in structuring a complex policy issue. The issue involves the development of an extended producer responsibility (EPR) system in Sweden:    Journal of the Operational Research Society (2006) 57, 792–801.

An overview by Tom Ritchey and a link to his excellent book on the topic.
WP definition of morphological analysis.
A lecture video on the method.
And the Swedish Morphological Society.

Via Swedish Morphological Society
Ritchey Consulting LLC
Dr. Tom Ritchey
Email: ritchey@swemorph.com |  www.ritcheyconsulting.org

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