I often encourage students to do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis for their organization or project.    The basic construct of a SWOT is to outline the internal and external pros and cons to a project.   Strengths and Weaknesses are internal to the organization/ brand/ project and Opportunites and Threats are external (or environmental).

Students often want to immediately incorporate their findings (brainstorming) into their strategy. I actually recommend using this as only one input to their strategy and planning.  It will inform their (and your) thinking but it’s not a plan in and of itself.

The biggest strength of a SWOT analysis is that it provides a framework for brainstorming about internal and external factors for your business.  On the downside, it can be arbitrary and subjective.

A guideline to consider for most business decision-making processes is to use multiple methods.  If multiple methods bring you to similar conclusions then you can have more confidence in those conclusions.  If multiple methods bring you to different conclusions then you have to go back and identify the underlying assumptions of each approach to see what might be causing the difference.

So, as a take-away– do a SWOT analysis but don’t let this one tool drive your entire planning process.