How many of you have attended planning sessions where facilitators conducted a S.W.O.T Analysis, asking participants to brainstorm your organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats?

We are entering a new economy, the fifth in human history. Times change and so should our strategies.

My recommendation: Don’t do a SWOT Analysis! There is a better way.

My methods of facilitating planning sessions over the years have changed radically, and I’ve learned SWOTs are toxic, while seeking Better Benefits work best.

In the Age of Innovation, a SWOT Analysis only locks a group into the current how’s of today, when in all fields, in all sectors, in all jobs, the how’s are changing more in this era than any time in history. I asked a recent audience of municipal information technology managers whether there is more change happening now in regard to their how’s than ever before and 100% of the hands went up; they will in future be involving the public in all processes, such as pothole patrol, where public photos initiate the work order and the municipal worker takes one of the completed work, all posted online. Tracking need satisfaction to generate improvement, crossing boundaries with your work utilizing new methods, customizing need satisfaction by utilizing partners, often involving customers in a joint mission to create better benefits, means all work has entered a new era.

Big data will serve up lessons learned to drive innovation. Millennials are working in new ways. We have entered the fifth economy in human history, an age of entrepreneurship, I call the Innovation Age.

If you asked Smith-Corona: What business are you in? they would have happily answered the “typewriter business”. Smith-Corona went bankrupt thinking that. They were actually in the efficient word-processing business. Their how’s should have changed.

Conducting a SWOT, asking people questions relating to their current how’s and having them answer how strong they are in doing it the way they always have, will not help teams move ahead in this new era of innovation.

 Success = Need Satisfaction. Period

Since all purchases are made by judging which option best meets the need priorities of the buyer, I focus on helping clients define their clear “better benefit” message, stressing that all success comes from lining up a Better Benefit delivered to a target customer who cares about that need being satisfied. 

 Instead of starting with a SWOT, try this planning approach:

First ask: What stakeholders do we serve, and what need priorities do we deliver to them? If a group of customers has a different set of need priorities, then this is a different business, a different customer base, who should be treated differently by you. All organizations are in more than one business; by planning to meet the differing needs of each group, need satisfaction will improve. Note that his may be the first time your work group deeply discusses the needs of those they serve – most planning is around the needs of the people planning.

Second Question: Which stakeholder needs are growing? Opportunities arise to deliver Better Benefits to stakeholders who have a growing need for your services. Investment follows growth. My sole focus as a futurist is to look at how changing human needs present opportunity for improved need fulfillment.

Third Question: How else do our customers/clients get their needs met, and what solutions could we provide in better ways to the groups we serve? Key for all organizations is to determine their Better Benefit goals, the way they will aim to meet needs for the groups they serve in improved ways. Whether you call it differentiation, competitive advantage, or unique selling point, a better benefit is at the heart of all marketing and sales success. Better Benefits are the single most important goal for any organization; achieving them are the key to success in the Innovation Age.

Once Better Benefit goals are created, THEN do a SWOT. At this stage, all the answers will be different. And success in the Age of Innovation will be much more likely.

Demonstrating the power of the Better Benefit approach to planning is a life goal of mine…

Hope this piece helps you forge future smiles!

 Jim Bottomley utilizes unique planning models to inspire innovation that brings success. Jim’s work across sectors provides insights that cross boundaries.

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