NOISE analysis mike cardus

Based on an earlier blog post, a friend asked me about the NOISEanalysis. The interaction is useful for seeing how the concept of solution-focused practice and complexity can help make some sense of your work and life. 

“Any particular reason you break out the order away from N-O-I-S-E. Prioritization? or easier to add upon the other during the thinking process? I happen to like the order as written. Especially when we recognize our strengths can be at times, both complementary or detrimental to our ability to make improvements.” Sean Lewis

I made NOISEanalysis to be solution-focused as opposed to SWOT, which feels problem-focused. 

With a solution-focused approach, we generally begin with hopes, then what is working well and how it is working, then move into how you will notice the improvement or change. 

How I phrase the NOISEanalysis

Strengths

Once we understand some hopes or boundaries of the work, starting with strengths allows the person(s) or team to talk about what is working and what is good. To create psychological safety and recognize that things are going well, and we need to make some areas louder and quieter. (more stories like these, less like those – using examples and lived experience)

Needs

To achieve hopes or strengths or strategy (make areas louder), what do we need? 

Needs feel to me like something that can be depersonalized. And needs are different from weakness. 

Needs comes second because “how will we achieve better, what do we need?” can only come from having hopes and knowing strengths. In the absence of hopes and strengths, needs are just blind-steps that can make the person(s) and team feel hopeless.

Opportunities

From strengths, the needs, then improvements, we move with the team to a divergent perspective or thinking outside themselves. 

Opportunities are ways of others knowing the opportunities exist, and we can gain those (building off strengths in the past and current). 

Improvements

Now we can talk about “what will be better when ___.” 

Improvements I try to frame as short, tangible – improvement – from strengths and needs. We can talk about improvement and identify ‘what worked in the past’ and how we find the strength or opportunity. 

Exceptions

Exceptions are perhaps the weirdest, and what separates NOISEanalysis from SWOT. 

In solution-focused, the concept of exception is a powerful tool, which means that all challenges or problems don’t happen all the time. If the issue happened all the time, then it is life and not a problem. 

So, I ask the team to look at what they wrote and describe where some of the strategies or ideas are happening, even a little … this helps the team to begin seeing patterns or weak signals that we can use to develop or amplify strategy. 


Since covid19 shifted the environment significantly and pushed us into a global pandemic, I’ve been mixing the NOISEanalysis with premortems and red teaming. Sometimes the whole organization, sometimes a product or service. 

Mashing different frames together helps the group (and me) see a novel or unique patterns and identify new ways of using what we got.