Contagious ideas and cognitive artefacts: the SWOT Analysis evolution in business

R.W. Puyt, Finn Birger Lie, F.J. de Graaf

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This historical review uncovers the institutionalisation and diffusion of the SWOT
analysis by assessing academic literature, seminar materials, proprietary research reports and interviews with experts from the virus theory perspective. We suggest that reviews of the SWOT analysis using the management fashion theory perspective are inadequate in explaining the diffusion and rejection of ideas born in practice. The virus theory perspective starts at an organizational level and reveals that predominantly practitioners were instrumental in spreading the ideas like participatory planning and distinguishing between short term and long range planning in order to resolve the planning paradox in provisional planning. Due to mutations in practice by consulting firms, the 2x2 matrix of SWOT became a cognitive artefact on its own. Theoretical roots of the original SWOT analysis stem from psychology and behavioural sciences.
It is questionable if current strategy textbooks reflect these theoretical backgrounds.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBAM2017Conference Proceedings
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2017


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