Organising research is important to creativity for several reasons. By putting relevant information together, you put it into context and unlock its potential insights. Once you have the critical insights, you can use brainstorming to develop strategies and ideas to bring the insights to life.
Arguably, the most common tool used to sort information is the SWOT Analysis. Credited to Albert Humphrey and his work at the Stanford Research Institute in the 1960s, the tool organises information into two groups of four areas:
- Internal attributes of the organisation (its strengths and weaknesses), and
- External attributes of the environment (opportunities and threats)
Here’s a comprehensive list of the most general questions, although you should adapt these questions to suit your category, industry and situation.
Another tool for organising information is the Force Field Analysis.
SWOT Analysis: Instructions
Step 1: Determine the business objective.
Step 2: Use the following questions in the toggle button below to determine the Strengths (the existing internal assets you have or own already) and Weaknesses (the existing internal liabilities, problems, issues or debts you have) which are directly associated with the objective or goal states in Step 1.
Areas in which we excel?
Price, value and quality?
Skills, talents, knowledge of our employees?
Key areas of differentiation?
Unique selling point?
Trends to capitalise upon?
Competitive advantage or strength?
Experience, case studies, best practices?
Data, information, insights?
Equipment, logistics, operations, supply chain?
Financial performance, cash flow, reserves, returns?
Brand: research, awareness, loyalty of customers or audience?
Location and geographical?
Management: breadth, depth, continuity, stability, succession?
Proprietary methodologies, processes, systems?
Reputation, marketing, presence and reach?
Vision, mission, philosophy and values?
Employee retention, recruitment?
Culture, morale, commitment?
Step 3: Use the following questions in the toggle button below to determine the Opportunities (external trends, circumstances, events) and the Threats (external problems, issues or debts) which may influence your objective or goal in Step 1.
New areas of demand?
New markets (vertical or horizontal, niche)?
New technologies, products, services, ideas (ours, theirs)?
Influences of seasons, weather, fashion, culture?
Technology advantages, developments, innovations?
Legislation, regulation, political environment?
Competitors (existing v. new, real v. perceived)?
Industry or category trends?
Influences at geographical levels (global, regional, local)?
Joint ventures, partnerships, alliances, associations, agencies?
Marketing tactics: digital, ambush, direct, communications?
Awards, accreditations, qualifications, certifications?
Third-party data, information and research?
Vital contracts and partners?
Staff: gains or losses?
Economic environment (home, abroad, regional)?
Step 4: Once the key points of information are sorted into the appropriate quadrant, analyse each area using the questions listed below. Again, tailor the questions to suit your needs.
How can we leverage or capitalise on each Strength or Opportunity?
Can individual Strengths be combined to make them stronger? Can individual Opportunities be combined to do the same? Can any Strength be matched to an Opportunity to do the same?
Can learnings from one Strength be applied to another? (For example, can insights from one department or team be transferred to another?)
How can we exploit or benefit from each Strength/Opportunity?
How can we improve a Weakness or Threat?
How do we address, eliminate or neutralise each Weakness or Threat?
How can we mitigate or minimise each Weakness or Threat?
Can any Strength/Opportunity be used to address a specific Weakness/Threat?
Step 5: Use brainstorming to translate any defined “task” from Step 4 into either a strategy or an idea. A simplified SWOT Analysis is a good evaluative tool to determine the quality of the best strategies and ideas.
Some additional points from readers is in the next post, go here.
Any other thoughts to add? Please include them in the notes below.