Morphological prospection: profiling the shapes of things to come


Voros, Joseph

Available versions


The purpose of this paper is two-fold. First, to describe in detail a particular sub-class of powerful prospective methods based on the method of “morphological analysis”. And second, to extend their use to create a basis for strengthening strategic analysis and policy development.The paper examines the history and use of morphological methods in foresight work, and briefly describes three main “lineages” currently in use, and proposes some extensions to models of practice. Recent research in cognitive psychology suggests that requiring a detailed and systematic examination of future possibilities before a decision is made leads to more effective assessments of futures. Morphological methods, by design and construction, are perfectly suited to this, and so can form an exceptionally strong basis for thinking systematically about the future. The paper also describes how to go about designing a foresighting capacity based on a systematic evaluation of future systemic contexts, as well as discussing what aspects of the external environment to include in robust competitive intelligence, strategic monitoring, environmental scanning, and 'horizon scanning' activities. The paper proposes some extensions to existing practice and describes some ways to tie the development of a strategic meta-language to clearly-targeted intelligence scanning. This paper should be of interest to anyone involved in trying to strengthen strategy development, policy planning or intelligence analysis.

Publication year


Publication type

Journal article


Foresight, Vol. 11, no. 6 (2009), pp. 4-20






Copyright © 2009 Emerald Group Publishing Limited. The accepted manuscript is reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.

Additional information

This paper was chosen as an Outstanding Paper Award Winner at the Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence 2010. Only one article receives this award across all issues of the journal published during that year. For more information, please see: