Nov 30

Changing the logic: SWOT to So What?

Hands up if you’ve done a swot (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. Did you enjoy it? Did you end up realising anything you didn’t already know?

A common problem with teams carrying out a swot analysis is they fill up all the boxes with things they already know and then stare blankly at it. Unless s-w-o-t has a so-what? element, it can just be a dull piece of homework to tick that box on strategy development.

Here are three tips for putting the O in your SWOT so you can activate some of the energy and creativity in your organisation to identify creative solutions to the challenges you face.

1. Options

The swot table is a snapshot of the way your world is. If you use it as a starting point and overlay 2 or 3 options it becomes a more dynamic tool to define your strategy. Start by giving yourself marks put of 5 for how each box is looking. You will have a total score somewhere between 0 (let’s hope not!) and 20.

Maybe one scenario is your competitors develop products or services that directly attack your weaknesses. How could you survive that attack? Another might be that you invest all of the marketing budget in customer insight, or all of advertising moneys in product development. Where would that take you? How does your total score look in each of these options?

2. Oddities


Strategic breakthroughs can come from unlikely sources. Rather than imaging say 10% lower production costs or a slight improvement on conversion rates, try letting your imagination run wild for a while. Be outlandish. Be outrageous. Let practicalities be damned and spend some time on crazy ideas. Invite in some free thinkers – artists, children, anyone who thinks in a different way and isn’t hampered by all the reality that you have in your head. Most of what they say might be impossible, but it is not irrelevant. By opening up the strategic space you may see something that can be done that has a few drops of the crazy idea within it.

3. Optimism


Most organisations these days do risk analysis. And that is a sensible precaution. However it can suck the energy out of the team and from time to time it might help to balance with some hope analysis. Put all of your weaknesses and threats in the strengths and opportunities part of the chart. Let your mind stretch open and change the logic. As you reframe the weaknesses as strengths you are likely to spot the strength that lies within the weakness. As Goethe said, “every problem comes bearing a gift”. If we don’t have problems we can’t enjoy solutions. Tip your world upside down and see where an optimism exercise gets you.


These are some suggestions that you might try, just as a thought experiment, just as a bit of stimulus for creativity. Why not? What’s the worst thing that could happen? And if, after trying them, anyone in the room is heard to say “oh!” Then you might have started to breathe life into your s-w-o-t and help it become a so what that helps you overcome your challenges and reach your goals.




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