By Tom Ritchey (Swedish National Defense Research Agency)
The study defines morphological analysis as “Morphological analysis (MA), pioneered by Fritz Zwicky in the 1930s and 40s, is a method for investigating the totality of relationships contained in multi-dimensional, non-quantifiable problem complexes”. Author argues that modelling complex socio-technical systems and developing threat scenarios comes with different methodological challenges such as the unquantifiable nature of factors, inherent irreducible uncertainties, and not enabling nature for tracing iteration of study (complex situations which is hard to reproduce the same process or results). The study suggests that MA may overcome these challenges by structuring and analyzing multi-dimensional technical, social and political problem complexes, which do not lend themselves to quantification. It can be used for developing scenarios, for defining and analyzing complex policy spaces and for assessing the relationship between ends and means in strategic planning.
MA goes through cycles of analysis and synthesis in a number of iterative steps. The iterative steps are:
Analysis phase: Define the problem complex in terms of variables and variable conditions.
Step 1: Identify the dimensions, parameters or variables, which best define the essential nature of the problem complex or scenario.
Step 2: For each variable, define a range of relevant, discrete values or conditions, which the variable can express.
The variable and variable-condition matrix is the morphological field -- an n-dimensional configuration space, which implicitly contains an outcome space for the problem complex thus defined. This outcome (or solution) space must then be defined.
Synthesis phase: Link variables and synthesize an outcome space.
Step 3: Assess the internal consistency of all pairs of variable conditions, identifying all inconsistent or contradictory pairs.
Step 4: Synthesize an internally consistent outcome space.
Step 5: Iterate the process if necessary.
In order to show these steps in application the author presents an example that assesses a nuclear plot scenario in Sweden. The author suggests that it is advantageous to develop two complementary morphological fields or laboratories: e.g. one which systematically maps out ranges of possible scenarios, based on factors which cannot be directly controlled and which put demands on the organization in question (i.e. an "external world" field); and one in which they map out alternative strategies, depending on variables which can, more or less, be controlled by the organization (i.e. an "internal world" or strategy field).