Dimensional Analysis

A to Z of
Creativity Techniques
Dialectical Approaches
Disney Creativity Strategy

The dimensional analysis technique is a checklist (Jensen, 1978) that relates to Five Ws and H, and is of most use as an aide memoir for initial exploration of a problem or evaluating options, particularly those associated with human relations, rather than of a technical nature. Jensen defines a problem as a violation of values – a slightly unusual approach that is reflected in this list:

Substantive Dimension (‘What?’)

  • Commission/omission? Doing something wrong, or failing to do something?
  • Attitude/deed? Is it necessary to change attitudes or practices?
  • Ends/means? Is the irritant we see the actual problem or merely a symptom of it?
  • Active/passive? Active threat or source of irritation?
  • Visible/invisible? Is the problem masked (e.g. covert human relations issues)

Spatial Dimension (‘Where?’)

  • Local/distant? Is it merely local or are their some remote influences
  • Particular location(s) within a location. Recognise the exact area concerned.
  • Isolated/widespread? Is the problem isolated or linked to several other problem areas.

Temporal (‘When?’)

  • Long-standing/recent? Which are parts are new and which are old?
  • Present/Impending? Is the problem happening or looks as though it may happen?
  • Constant/ebb-and-flow? Is the problem always there, irregular or cyclic?

Quantitative (‘How much?’)

  • Singular/multiple? Is there a single cause or are there many?
  • Many/few people? How many people are affected by the problem?
  • General/specific? Is the problem applicable to a broad category or very specific sub-area?
  • Simple/complex? Are there several elements to the problem with complex interactions?
  • Too much/too little? Appears as a shortage or surplus?

Qualitative (‘How serious?’)

  • Philosophical/surface, is it an issue with deep values or surface practicalities?
  • Survival/enrichment? Is it a live-or-die issue, or one to do with managing quality?
  • Primary/secondary? What priority does the issue have top or bottom?
  • What values are being violated? See Jensen’s definition of a problem (above).
  • To what degree are they being violated? Qualifies previous answer.
  • Proper/improper values? Not all values should be honoured.