# Attribute listing

Attribute listing is a good technique for ensuring that all possible aspects of a problem have been examined. Attribute listing involves breaking the problem down into smaller and smaller bits and seeing what can be discovered as a result.

Example

Let’s say you are in the business of making torches. You are under pressure from your competition and need to improve the quality of your product. By breaking the torch down into its component parts - casing, switch, battery, bulb, and the weight (the attributes of each one) - you can develop a list of ideas and you can improve each one (Table 6.1).

Attribute listing is a very useful technique for quality improvement of complicated products and procedures for services. It is a good technique to use in conjunction with some other creative techniques, especially idea-generating ones like brainstorming. This allows you to focus on one specific part of a product or process before generating a whole lot of ideas.

# Morphological analysis

Morphological analysis (Zwicky,1948; Allen, 1962) is a tool which can help generate a vast number of ideas. It works best as a visual aid. However, this can prove difficult in circumstances where the problem is complex. Ideally, the problem should have two or three dimensions to permit the construction of two-dimensional or three-dimensional grids.

First, possible dimensions are listed which describe the problem or system being studied. No more than three dimensions can be represented diagrammatically, and they must be relevant and have a logical interrelationship. For example, if an organisation decides to alter its product in response to changing requirements, it may consider product shape and the material out of which the product can be made as two such dimensions. In this case the dimensions would be represented on a two-dimensional

Table 6.1 Attribute listing: Improving a torch

 Feature Attribute Ideas Casing Plastic Metal Switch on/off on/off/low beam Battery Consumable Rechargeable Bulb Glass Plastic Weight Heavy Light

grid (or on a cube for three dimensions), and a list of attributes is then generated under each dimension. Free-wheeling and offbeat ideas are encouraged.

The next step is to examine combinations of attributes across the dimensions, however unusual or impractical they may seem. For example, a cross may be put in a box if the combination is used at present and a nought if it is a potential one worth pursuing. Promising ideas are then subsequently evaluated for their suitability.

When considering more than three, a variation called ‘morphological forced connections’ may be applied. This uses a two-dimensional grid with the dimensions written across the top columns, and the attributes, or ways that they can be accomplished, written in the cells beneath. A combination is represented by a line linking a cell from each column.

Example

Suppose a firm wants to generate ideas for a new educational toy for toddlers. The first stage is to identify suitable categories of ideas to use as axes of a matrix, bearing in mind that one is seeking to discover opportunities rather than come up with an immediate solution. The chosen dimensions must be relevant to the problem and have some logical interrelationship. However, the items listed under each dimension can be as offbeat as one wants. The morphology identifies the dimensions which describe the toy and then identifies lists of attributes under each dimension (see Table 6.2 for example).

In the example given in Table 6.2, the attributes of each dimension can be combined with each other, thus giving 9x8x9 = (648) possibilities. Sometimes it may be necessary to consider three or even four dimensions, but this makes the task of evaluating ideas laborious, and so the two or three most important dimensions are usually chosen.

Table 6.2 Morphological analysis: A new toy for a child

 Material Where used Educational purpose Felt Cot Alphabet Rubber Pram Numbers Plastic Playpen Shapes Wood Beach Sounds Transparent Perspex Car Colours Wool Bath Textures Metal Garden Co-ordmation Inflatable plastic Holidays Smell Luminescent Construction