Centre for Financial Innovation

Contagious ideas and cognitive artefacts

the SWOT Analysis evolution in business


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.

Reference Puyt, R. W., Lie, F. B., & de Graaf, F. J. (2017). Contagious ideas and cognitive artefacts: the SWOT Analysis evolution in business. In BAM2017Conference Proceedings (pp. 2-19). Article 351
Published by  CAREM 5 September 2017

Publication date

Sep 2017


R.W. Puyt
Finn Birger Lie


Research database