From Threat to Opportunity…
When SWOT became TOWS
Well, it would seem that Covid 19 has not only turned our lives upside down but in some senses has also caused one particular business model to flip back to front!
We all know SWOT don’t we? (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats: the analytical model for making strategic decisions in a business (or any other walk of life really), well let me introduce you to TOWS (see what I did there?).
Yes, here at the Brighton Business School we are innovators, and to prove it we even have a Subject Group called Responsible Enterprise and Innovation! So how has Covid-19 reversed the ubiquitous SWOT model? Well, here are just a few examples (I know that my colleagues and students have many more):
Opportunity (Threat) 1:
People who work in the beauty sector are often self employed and are having real problems now that they have to socially distance themselves from their clients. The Government’s new funding initiative (Coronavirus [COVID-19] Self Employment Income Support Scheme) only goes so far to support these workers.
So, one innovative hairdresser and hairdressing lecturer (an ex-colleague of mine) has decided to seize the bull by the horns and make the best of a bad situation while at the same time supporting fellow citizens. She showed some hilarious mishap haircut photos on her Facebook page and invited the public to have an online tutorial with her while cutting their children’s hair. How innovative is that? So, in one fell swoop we’ve moved from threat to opportunity. Will these new ‘customers stay with her after Covid-19? Who knows, but it is worth a punt, isn’t it?
But, how is this related to the Business School I hear you ask? Well, let me explain… one of our very own innovative International Business students saw an academic opportunity (rather than a threat) when Covid 19 hit while on their study year abroad and realised that those in the Beauty sector were likely to be badly hit by the virus and wanted to research it. I heard about this and decided to hook these two innovators up. And voila, we have an academic research project based on a real-life crisis in the business sector underpinned by a real life business case study and if that isn’t practical wisdom, I don’t know what is!
Opportunity (Threat) 2:
In our Small Business and Entrepreneurship module, where students have to develop their own business plans, three of our own student Entrepreneurs had a great idea to start an eco business called Ethicul (I know, I don’t like the spelling either, but it’s wasn’t me they had to convince, it was our team of Dragons who are all members of the local Chamber of Commerce).
The business idea is a mobile application which facilitates a social movement of positive purchasing. The Dragons loved the business idea so much that the group of three decided to turn their dreams into reality and have now set up their own business! They haven’t even finished studying yet and are having to cope with the rigours and challenges of online learning.
What’s that got to do with Covid-19 and our new TOWS model? Well, instead of thinking about the ‘threat’ of people reducing their shopping due to social distancing, these students grasped the ‘opportunity’ by putting the call out on LinkedIn asking their (rapidly growing) fanbase to recommend businesses that were keeping going to provide ethical produce in spite of the virus – thereby raising the profiles both of the ethical companies listed and their own brand during the crisis. Another great innovation.
Opportunity (Threat) 3:
Like many others, I was a bit lost as to how to keep fit once my local Gym had closed during the lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. One of the instructors decided to deliver live classes every day during the outbreak to the people who followed him on his social media sites. He wanted to make this offer (and other offers of live Personal Training) available to a wider audience so he approached me to help support him with his marketing campaign as he is very busy delivering his classes.
In the ‘new normal’ that will follow this pandemic, perhaps this method of delivering classes will really take off. I have now advertised this to our Marketing Students here at BBS so that they can help him with this campaign to help support people to stay fit in their own homes at this difficult time. This will look great on their CVs!
Opportunity (Threat) 4:
Online teaching. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have to ask my kids how to use the TV remote, so to say that switching to online delivery was a steep learning curve for me is a gross understatement. Six months ago I watched a BBC article where Chinese children were being taught their lessons on i-pads by one teacher who was co-ordinating delivery to hundreds of kids at the same time. I had never seen anything like it and it looked completely out of my reach! (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-asia-china-51774536/coronavirus-china-s-classrooms-without-students).
The week before lockdown it looked like online delivery was inevitable so I decided to get on with it and learn. Very quickly. Luckily we have some wonderful technicians and colleagues at the Business School whose patience knows no bounds. So here I was, at home one week later, having managed to move all my teaching materials for the next 6 weeks online and my next hurdle was to actually teach online. So I set up a Microsoft TEAMS group with four channels on it, each of which had four students allocated and that constituted my seminar group. Imagine my surprise when all of them turned up at their allotted times (through a code that I had managed to find!) for their lessons. They were as pleased to see each other as I was to see them! Why? Because these kids had just had to fly back to their homes all over the world. Yes, these were our International Exchange students (we leave no one behind at BBS!). So I had made it, I had taught. Online. All over the world. Game changer.
Whatever the ‘new normal’ will be, these ‘threats’ becoming ‘opportunities’ will surely be a part of the process. Stay Safe and Carpe Diem!
Rachael Carden (Principal Lecturer and Subject Group Leader for Responsible Enterprise and Innovation)