Consultants use visual tools to effectively structure their thoughts during brainstorming sessions and also to convey findings to clients. One such common tool is the 2×2 Matrix, also known as the 2×2 Decision Matrix. The matrix can be used in a variety of situations, making it extremely flexible and useful. Consulting firms like BCG use this type of matrix (The BCG Matrix), and prospective consultants should be familiar with this type of decision making framework.
What is the 2×2 Matrix?
The 2×2 Matrix is a visual tool that consultants use to help them make decisions. The technique involves creating a 2×2 matrix with opposing characteristics on each end of the spectrum. The team then sorts their ideas and insights according to where they fall in the matrix.
Here is a visual representation of the 2×2 Matrix:
As you can see in the above exhibit, the most desirable characteristics fall into the upper left quadrant, while the least desirable ones fall in the lower right. However, users of the matrix can arrange the spectrum in whichever order best suits their needs.
Why is it Useful?
Oftentimes, even just determining where to place each idea into the matrix will lead to new insights and clarity. Sometimes, this process is even more important than the final product in itself. The 2×2 Matrix is a helpful way to plot common understandings or agreements on a particular subject in order to make a decision.
The 2×2 Matrix is also an extremely helpful tool to use when there is a lack of quantitative information but an abundance of qualitative information on potential solutions. Since there is no clear way to rank qualitative ideas, comparing them against each other based on important variables is an effective way of evaluating each idea as well as the landscape as a whole. Not to mention, discussions with your team on how to determine what qualitative data is important can be very enlightening.
Other times, even when there is quantitative information available, seeing how the insights rank against each other visually can bring about additional insight.
In addition, you should absolutely know how to interpret and extract insights from a 2×2 matrix in a case interview. If you don’t feel comfortable interpreting these kinds of graphs, book a 1hr coaching session with one of our expert coaches.
2×2 Matrix Examples
Below are a few examples in action.
SWOT Analysis is one of the most famous examples of the 2×2 Matrix. SWOT Analysis is useful in determining the abilities and disadvantages of a business from an internal and external perspective.
The BCG Matrix
The BCG Matrix is a famous 2×2 Matrix that compares companies based on their market growth rates and their relative market shares. Each quadrant is also named so that it’s easier to refer to the type of company.
For example, companies with high market growth rates and high relative market share are “Stars,” while companies with low market growth rates and low relative market shares are “Dogs.”
The below 2×2 Matrix compares things based on relative urgency and importance. This matrix could be a helpful way for anyone to strategize the importance of a list of tasks. In this example, anything in the top left quadrant (“Top Priority”) should be taken care of first. Everything in the bottom right quadrant (“Waste of Time”) shouldn’t be worked on until the other tasks are completed first.
As you can see from this example, the 2×2 Matrix can also be a helpful tool for anyone to structure their thoughts. The tool does not only have to be used for business-related reasons.
Disadvantages of the 2×2 Matrix
The 2×2 Matrix is a helpful tool that can be useful in a variety of contexts. However, the tool in many ways is a very simple one that doesn’t allow for more than the comparison of two variables. There can often be times when there are several more factors that need to be compared for a complete evaluation of the situation.
In addition, since the 2×2 Matrix is such a flexible tool, the information placed in the matrix can be different depending on the user’s viewpoints and biases. This is especially true for 2×2 Matrices that are purely based on qualitative information.
The 2×2 Matrix is a helpful tool to assist you in contrasting various opportunities or perspectives. Though, like with most models or frameworks, it has its limitations. Any more than two variables don’t work in the 2×2 Matrix. What are some areas of decision in your own life where you can apply the matrix. Practicing with the tool will help prepare you to use it in a consulting situation. Enjoy!