New Futures Thinking: Replace SWOT with SOAR

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Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) is a methodological framework many people are familiar with.  How old world.

The 21st century shift toward networked operations, shared leadership and collaboration has ‘either/or’ thinking replaced by ‘both/and’ considerations to deal with increasing complexities.

Doesn’t it make sense that our planning approaches go through the shift as well? If you keep doing what you’ve always done… well, you know the saying.

SOAR may be the new SWOT

In the new world, where motivation and engagement are configured into planning, here’s a newer frame to replace SWOT. It’s a more people focused approach that could instill inspiration to achieve.

Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results (SOAR). It’s foundation is Appreciative Inquiry, or, the Angels’ Advocate, or Affirmative Judgment. Using it opens the mind and the spirit to consider what may be created next as opposed to what fits into the current ways of doing things.

What is SOAR?

“SOAR is a strategic thinking, strategy formulation, and planning framework that allows an organization to construct its future through collaboration among its stakeholders. It is a strengths-based approach to building strategic capacity, and is an appreciative inquiry alternative to SWOT. SOAR Applications include: Strategy, strategic planning, team building, coaching, leadership development, and strategic summits.” 

SOAR as a Creative Problem Solving Approach

Five key “I” phrases are used for this collaborative approach: initiate, inquire, imagine, innovate, and inspire to implement.  Each of these might map very nicely to the creative problem solving or CPS frame:

  1. Initiate – explore the vision
  2. Inquire – explore data, formulate the challenge
  3. Imagine – explore ideas
  4. Innovate – explore solutions
  5. Inspire to Implement – formulate and activate the plan

What are the Claims about SOAR?

  • Creates workplaces which have greater employee engagement, collaboration, community, meaning, purpose, creativity and energy.
  • Conversations achieve strategic outcomes, and contribute to achieving other business objectives necessary for creating sustainable workplaces.
  • Works with any person, no matter what role or level they hold in or outside an organization.
  • Reinforces values, meaning, purpose and strengths – the new management paradigm for creating new futures. Imagine using a methodology that aligns with values, and asks people to come from their and the organization’s best strengths moving forward rather than the opposite. Wouldn’t it be nice to do more of what you are good at instead of doing more of what you are not good at? (Marcus Buckingham calls these ‘weakeners’)
  • Helps to break down silo to connect more strongly with stakeholders and clients.
  • Using it creates an environment for respectful conversations and relationships to flourish.

One author of Thin Book of SOAR Jacqueline M. Stavros, reports that companies become more resilient, and are better able to manage unexpected changes and uncertainty using this approach.

Many creativity professionals have likely been using SOAR covertly for years.  ‘What’s good about it?’ and ‘how can we build on our strengths?’ are common refrains we use to bolster people’s courage to create.  Anyone know of research supporting these claims?  Thanks!

Content is adapted from a blogpost by Amanda Horne in Positive Psychology News Daily…SOAR – Workshop Review