It is more the look of this management tool, than its business pedigree, that I’ve found so valuable.
If you are assessing business opportunities I’m sure Porter’s model of five forces is a great starting point (has worked for me). But creative thinking is what thrills me and there is something about its visual structure that I’ve found really useful in pushing my and other people’s thinking.
Mindtools have a great little write up and show its breadth, for instance, applying it to choosing a new career.
For me though, draw a square on a page with two fat arrows pointing in from the top and the left, and two more pointing out from the bottom and right, and you’ve got a great way of brainstorming your analysis of a problem.
Yes, I’m bastardising it – draw the arrows any which way you need.
In the square assess what is at the core of the proposition, what is unique, what you have now. Left to right is a journey; in Porter’s model it is the pressures along of the supply chain. For me, it could be the user journey through a website, the links in and out, or how people enter and leave an art installation.
Top and bottom might be about alternatives and substitutes (i.e. how you could do the thing differently or what other things you could do instead). Or it could be where content comes from for your website and where it is syndicated to, or how people might add something to or take something away from that art installation.
The important thing is to make yourself get something in all the boxes and arrows. Perhaps Porter is irrelevant and the lesson I’m trying to get at is analyse a problem along at least one more axis than you think necesssary.
Force yourself to think in 5 ways, instead of one, and you’ll probably find a solution you didn’t imagine.