03 December 2012

Strength alone has no meaning - Reorder Your SWOT

All strengths are dependent on the situation. They should be determined externally by the situation unless you specific choose the situation wherein your strength is relevant. Going further, we should do our SWOT in the order of TOWS! BTW, No idea is useless. You just need to choose the situation and the job or person that need it. Finding the jobs that make use of your idea is also innovation. Innovation is not just the invention of things or even services. Giving new meaning and hence new uses for existing products are also innovation. 
When sending my daughter to work this morning, I encountered the following situation as shown in the photo below:

What can you see or learn in the above photo?

That's is the very sexy looking Ferrari? I wish I can afford one?

Ferrari is better to be in red than white?

It is a traffic jam.

That's is the 1st level kind of thinking.

For deeper thoughts...

In a traffic jam or at a red traffic light, the Ferrari is as fast my Honda.

Any strength is situation dependent. 

All the horsepowers in the Ferrari cannot be used in a traffic jam.

Strengths or weaknesses should be viewed externally, from the opportunities and threats that are present in the situation.

So we must :

a. choose the theater of operations where our strengths can be used or

b. get the strengths that we need when we are forced into a situation.

Doing SWOT in TOWS Order

This lesson is the key to the SWOT analysis that we do often in strategic planning. We tend to do it inwardly first, from what we think as our strengths and weaknesses and look outward for the opportunities and threats. Hence, we see what we like to see and miss out the greater opportunities (threats are opportunities too. So I purposefully not mention it here) that lie in our blind spots. Furthermore, strengths should be measured not by us but by our customers and the market relative to our competitors

We should invert the way we do SWOT. We should look at the OT and then derive the S!W. Or even we should do it TOWS! Look the external threats, find the opportunities, discover the weaknesses and find the strengths to come out with a set of action plans (the strategies) to convert threats to opportunities, weaknesses to strengths, so as to ride on the strengths to capture the opportunities. The good news of external opportunities and threats are that all your competitors are facing them also. There open the great opportunities for you to better them!

Opportunities and threats are uncertain too. If we can convert threats into opportunities then what we first called threats are actually opportunities. If we ignore the risks in our opportunities then our opportunities may change into threats.

Chinese has a famous saying, 塞翁失马焉知非福, a blessing in disguise. An old farmer lost a horse. The neighbors said, "What bad luck." A few days later, the horse returned with other horses. The neighbors said, "How lucky." Later, the Farmer's son fell from taming the horses and broke his leg. The neighbors said,"How unfortunate." Then, there was war and all young men in the village were conscripted except the son with the broken leg. The neighbors said,"How lucky." Often, we could not even be sure of the outcomes of our decisions in a world of changes. Changes in the external environment could make our prior wise decision looks stupid!

So, we have the following levels of thinking:
  1. It is a crisis, we have problems.
  2. There are opportunities in every crisis besides the threats.
  3. Opportunities have their risks and threats have opportunities within. It is not so clear after all. So, manage the risks in the opportunities and convert the threats into opportunities. 

No idea is useless. 
Extending even further, there is no such thing as a useless idea.
You just need to find the situation and the job or person that need it. 
Finding the jobs that make use of your idea is also innovation. 
Innovation is just the invention of things or even services. 
Giving a new meaning and hence new uses for existing products are also innovation.

Hope this post gives you lots of ideas to improve your business and life.

For more, see Sun Zi and Other Strategists

Lim Liat (C) 3 Dec 2012

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