Monday, October 5, 2015

Does SWOT Analysis Beat the IBAR Critical Thinking Method?

Does SWOT Analysis Beat the IBAR Critical Thinking Method?

Helen R. Metcalf


In today’s business climate, where corporate managers are attempting to make the most of their resources, it is essential to choose a strategic thinking model that nets the best results. Albert S. Humphrey is credited for developing the SWOT analysis in the 1960s. Essentially, the acronym for SWOT refers to Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Strengths and weaknesses are considerations when a manager looks inside an organization to determine what it does best and least effective. Opportunities and threats are outside forces that could prove helpful or harmful to organizational development. In a practical sense, SWOT analysis seeks to find the benefits and liabilities that lie within and outside of an organization. As an example, a small business may be able to change directions rapidly (Strength), but this may prove harmful if the business is undercapitalized as it attempts to create new products (Weakness). Being a small company allows it to specialize in a niche (Opportunity), but may prove harmful if the niche is a commodity that can be dominated by a larger competitor (Threat). Typically, SWOT analysis affords the opportunity for managers to look at all angles of a company for establishing a viable marketing and business development strategy.

The IBAR Critical Thinking Method (IBAR) was developed by Edward S. Brown III in 2012. IBAR’s acronym stands for Issues, Benchmarks, Analysis/Application, and Recommendations. In strategic analysis, Issues, Applications, and Recommendations review the internal structure of the company, while Benchmarks and Analysis look at outside prospects. In a practical sense, a manager would ask what, when, why, where, and how a problem derived (Issue). Once the issue has been diagnosed, a manager would look for industry standards, best practices, and leaders who have dealt with a similar problem (Benchmarks). From these Benchmarks, a manager would determine why and how they worked successfully in the past (Analysis). It would be similar to precedents established in law. If judges have settled cases that serve as guidelines, the only determination is how this precedent (Benchmark) can be used successfully in this particular instance (Application). If there are several Benchmarks to consider, they must be triaged or prioritized based on their merit for providing the best chance for successful implementation. Resolving the order of priority is a part of the recommendation process, which reflects the most attractive solution available among options.

SWOT analysis is a comprehensive means of looking at an organization with a 360-degree lens. Harbour (n.d.) outlined the benefits and liabilities of SWOT Analysis. Harbour said the benefits are:

·         SWOT helps decision makers decide on a course of action using a simple matrix.

·         SWOT is an excellent tool for marketing campaigns.

·         No special training is needed to implement SWOT.

Harbour says the liabilities include:

·         SWOT identifies issues without providing solutions.

·         SWOT may not reflect the reality of the business.

·         SWOT does not prioritize the issue within its four quadrants.

Although very little has been written on the IBAR Critical Thinking Method, anecdotal analysis generated from its influence from the IRAC Method prompts some benefits and liabilities.

Some general benefits are:

·         IBAR creates a solution to the issue.

·         Benchmarks are anchored to the success of diverse companies.

·         No special training is necessary after the initial introduction.

Some liabilities include:

·         Its critical thinking premise is relegated to a simple formula.

·         Provides a recommendation for issue resolution but still involves trial and error.

·         Does not have a long history.

So does SWOT analysis beat the IBAR Critical Thinking Method? Based on the findings, SWOT analysis is effective at self-reflection and marketing campaigns. However, IBAR is effective at resolving issues, planning, and decision making. In this vein, IBAR is a better choice for comprehensive decision making for organizational development. On the other hand, SWOT is a better choice for getting a snapshot of the current state of organizational operations. The best choice between the two rests on the specific results a practitioner is attempting to achieve.


Harbour, S. (N.D.). What are the benefits and detriments of SWOT analysis? CHRON (Houston Chronicle). Retrieved from:

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