How to Use a Morphological Matrix to Generate Ideas

A morphological matrix is a powerful tool for generating ideas, based on potential variations in a problem's characteristics.

A morphological matrix is a form of random stimulation that can be used solo or in groups and which has been around for a while. It does not have a sexy name like some creative techniques, but it is ideal for generating ideas when you have an idea about what you wish to do but not how you might go about doing it.

This ideation technique is best understool by looking at an example. If you were a TV producer you might ask the question “How might we go about creating a new soap opera?” To use this technique in such a case, first create a table with ten rows labelled 0 – 9 and 4 columns initially numbered 1 to 4.

Next perform the following steps:

  1. Label each column with a different parameter or characteristic of the problem or task e.g. for our example column 1 could be target audience, column 2 – setting, column 3 – theme, column 4 – suggested title.
  2. For column 1 generate varied and/or unusual ideas and fill the column (you now have ten wacky suggestions for target audience).
  3. Repeat for column 2, column 3 and column 4. Try not to refer to adjacent columns when filling a column.
  4. Randomly select four numbers in the range 0 – 9. To do this you could turn over 2 dominoes and select 2 numbers on each end’ that gives you four numbers. Or use the last four digits of your telephone number, or the day and month of your birthday.
  5. Use the four numbers to generate combinations by using each number in turn as in index into one of the columns. Each set of four random numbers thus selects a target audience, setting, theme and title. Record your combination.
  6. Repeat the previous step as many times as you wish (and keep recording the results). Note that this simple table can create 10,000 different combinations!

When you have sufficient combinations, choose one (or more if you have time) to examine in greater detail. You might use them as generated or they might suggest something else to you.

Good luck!

Derek Cheshire is an innovation strategist and expert on the topics of innovation and business creativity. He is creator of the Innovation Equation, author of articles such as ‘Slow Innovation’ and ‘How To Generate 20 Business Ideas Over Coffee’ and has appeared on the CNBC program ‘The Business Of Innovation.’ E-mail Derek at [email protected] or visit www.creative4business.co.uk.

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