How to innovate with morphology matrices

This post explains what a morphology matrix is and how to use it for innovation discovery.

This post explains what a morphology matrix is and how to use it for innovation discovery

A morphology matrix dissects a product or technology into its dimensions and shapes. Dimensions are aspects of the product/technology and shapes are the variations within the dimension.

The image below shows the matrix for an LED lamp.

Product morphology matrix for an LED Lamp
Product morphology matrix for an LED Lamp

A dimension (aspect) of an LED lamp is its packaging material. And the packaging material can be (the variations): plastic, ceramic or metal. Such morphology matrixes are based on patents or existing products/technologies.

With these matrices companies have three ways to find innovations:

  • Find innovation opportunities based on existing products or patents
  • Use the morphology matrix based on the technology behind the product to find innovation opportunities
  • Combine the product morphology with the morphology of similar products

The next paragraphs describe how these scenarios work.

Find innovation opportunities based on existing products or patents

If the morphology matrix is based on competing products or patents, the company has an overview of all possible combinations.

The easiest way is to simply try combinations that the company does not produce. For an LED lamp (see image below), if the company produces an LED lamp wrapped into plastic (dimension “Packaging material”), they could explore an LED lamp with “Metal” as the “Packaging material”.

Product morphology matrix for an LED Lamp
Product morphology matrix for an LED Lamp

A far more interesting way is to build the morphology matrix based on the technology behind the product.

Use the morphology matrix based on the technology behind the product to find innovation opportunities

With a product morphology based on existing products or patents (example above), the company only knows which product combinations somebody has already “invented”.

By building a technology matrix based on the technology behind the product, the company sees significantly more possibilities.

The image below shows the technology matrix for LED heat-dissipation (the technology behind LED lamps)

Technology matrix for LED heat-dissipation (the technology behind LED lamps)
Technology matrix for LED heat-dissipation (the technology behind LED lamps)

Furthermore, comparing the technology matrix and a product matrix based on patents (see image below), the company can get a sense of the technical feasibility behind the features.

Comparing the technology matrix and a product matrix
Comparing the technology matrix and a product matrix

If the company wants to move even further away from the existing product, they can use the product morphology matrix of a similar product. The following paragraphs explain this scenario.

Combine the product morphology with the morphology of similar products

In this scenario, the company searches innovation opportunities by looking at the product morphology of similar products.

As shown in Text mining technological capabilities for innovation discovery there are several ways to find similar products.

One easy way is to assume that similar products share the same technology. In the case of LED lamps, this means that products that are also based on LED heat dissipation technology are considered similar products.

With this in mind, the concrete process is as follows:

  1. Build the morphology matrix for the main product
  2. Build the technology matrix for the technology behind the main product
  3. Find product patents based on that technology matrix. Those products are considered similar products
  4. Build the product matrix based on those similar products
  5. Compare the morphology of those similar products with the main product morphology to find innovation opportunities

The images below explain the process for LED lamps.

Finding innovation opportunities for LED lamps by analyzing similar products

Build the morphology matrix for the main product (in this case LED lamps):

Morphology matrix for LED lamps
Morphology matrix for LED lamps

Build the technology matrix for the technology behind the main product (in this case LED heat dissipation technology):

Morphology matrix for LED heat dissipation technology
Morphology matrix for LED heat dissipation technology

Find similar products based on the technology matrix and build the product morphology matrix for the similar products:

Morphology matrix for products similar to LED lamps
Morphology matrix for products similar to LED lamps

Compare the morphology of the similar products with the main product morphology to find innovation opportunities

The image below shows the combination of the product morphology for LED lamps and the morphology of products similar to LED lamps.

In this case “Abrasive material” (left bottom) was added as a dimension and “Diamond” (middle left) was added as a shape.

Combination of the product morphology for LED lamps and the morphology of products similar to LED lamps
Combination of the product morphology for LED lamps and the morphology of products similar to LED lamps

At Researchly we are building tools that help companies do such analysis. If you want to try them yourself (they are free), head over to Researchly

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

This post is based on Exploring technological opportunities by linking technology and products: Application of morphology analysis and text mining by Byungun Yoon, Inchae Park, and Byoung-youl Coh. The images are also from the paper.