Blind Spot SWOT

You have used good, old fashioned SWOT analysis. It is a cornerstone planning tool when considering a new project, venture, businesses unit, product, you name it. Your team gathers around a conference table to call out Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It’s an easy 2x2 matrix designed to identify the parameters of engagement.

And, like other easy things, it has major flaws. The biggest problem with SWOT analysis is this: it only includes what you know. You list Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats as you understand them. In reality, your SWOT looks like this:

Do you feel comfortable with that diagram? This is not a planning strategy I’d want to show my clients. Or your board. Still, organizations use this model as a planning tool and move forward with half of the information they need to assess their risks and advantages.

Here is my SWOT model:

Call it Blind Spot SWOT. This matrix forces you to consider known and unknown information. “How can I know the unknown,” you [hopefully] ask. This is when your organization benefits from outside perspective… if you reach far enough outside. Hiring a consultant from inside your industry will give you information you probably already know. Instead, hire a consultant like this:

The goal is to get new ideas. You can only get new ideas from someone with different knowledge. If SWOT analysis gives you known Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to consider, an outsider can contribute new information from a different perspective.

People with outside perspectives can contribute to your Unknown SWOT data, especially in the Unknown External category. Consider embedding some outsiders to identify Unknown Internal information, too. Your organization has latent talent, ideas, and energy, plus cultural characteristics that go unrecognized by the culture itself. Outsiders can recognize those situations quickly because they have a different basis for comparison.

The economy has proven that organizations are at the mercy of rapid shifts in marketplace and customer expectations. Like it or not, the word “disruptive” is here for a reason: the groups who do things differently are changing the environment for everyone. Your biggest threats come from outside your industry. Competition has changed, and your planning strategies need to change, too.