4.5.5 Variations of Attribute Listing

Like many creative techniques Attribute Listing has been adapted and expanded upon.

Morphological Analysis
Morphological Analysis was first developed by Fritz Zwitcky, a Swiss astronomer, in 1948. It was originally applied to the field of astrophysics and rocket research but has recently been recognised as being applicable to a wide range of situations. It is ideally used when the problem has 2 or more dimensions.1
Morphological analysis in its simplest form can be seen in the example above where all the alternatives to the components of street lighting were listed in a table. New products can be formulated by combining the alternatives. Morphological Analysis is especially useful when huge arrays of alternative solutions have been generated.
Software programme specialising in Morphological Analysis have been developed to help analyse large volumes of combinations.

Random Stimuli
Attribute listing can also be combined with Random Stimuli to find new and interesting alternatives. Visual stimuli forces people to look at an object from a different angle and can spark off new and imaginative ideas and discussions. Here's how it works:

  • Pictures which depicting images of everyday object are first shown to the group (at least three images should be used).
  • The attributes of each of these objects are then listed.
  • Now describe the problem to be solved.
  • Ask the group to find solutions which make use of at least one word form each of the attributes of the unrelated objects.
  • Evaluate the solutions generated.

Tony Proctor in his book "Creative Problem Solving for Managers: Developing skills for Decision Making & Innovation" gives the following example of how random stimuli can be combined with attribute listing to find solutions to communication problems within an organisation.2


Some of the combinations generated 
-> Has horns + flies high + warm and friendly

Suggested solution: Stress the powerful effect and importance of making sure that all the organisational units communicate with one another in a warm and friendly manner.

-> Steer + has a pilot and crew + lasting relationship

Suggested Solution: Need to provide written guidelines or training to enable employees to develop durable and lasting good-practice methods of interdepartmental communications.

Why not try Random Stimuli combined with Attribute Listing with a group of your employees and see what interesting and sometimes wacky solutions you will conjure? Use Clip Art or websites such as www.istockphoto.com and www.images.com to find images to use to trigger the discussions.  

1 www.swemorph.com/ma.html
2 Creative Problem Solving for Managers: Developing skills for Decision Making & Innovation. Tony Proctor (2005)