A simple example of morphological analysis may suffice to illustrate the principles of the method. This is drawn from work that the Swedish National Defence Research Agency (FOI) did concerning the future of the Swedish bomb shelter program. During the Cold War period, Sweden invested large sums of money annually in the planning, building and maintenance of these shelters. With the end of the cold war, the shelter program – its form, usefulness and
costs – came under greater scrutiny. This problem, which has aspects of both policy analysis and a futures study, is eminently suited for morphological analysis.
The first problem was to identify and properly define the dimensions of the problem – that is to say, the relevant issues involved. These include e.g. technical, financial, political and ethical issues. One of the advantages of GMA is that there are no formal constraints to mixing and comparing such different types of issues. On the contrary, if we are really to get to the bottom of the policy problem, we must treat all relevant issues together. Secondly, for each issue (parameter), a spectrum of “values” must be defined. These values
represent possible, relevant states or conditions that each parameter can assume. A segment of one of the policy spaces, which was developed for this study, is presented in Figure 2. It has been reduced from its original ten parameters to six, and is used here only for pedagogical purposes.
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General Morphological Analysis (GMA) was developed by Fritz Zwicky – the Swiss astrophysicist and aerospace scientist based at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) – as a method for structuring and investigating the total set of relationships contained in multidimensional, non-quantifiable, problem complexes (Zwicky 1966, 1969). Zwicky applied this method to such diverse fields as the classification of astrophysical objects,
the development of jet and rocket propulsion systems, and the legal aspects of space travel and colonization. He founded the Society for Morphological Research and advanced the
"morphological approach" for some 30 years, between the 1940's until his death in 1974.