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Over-Reaction to Attack: the Obama Campaign

In Sun Tzu's adaptive response strategy, the one big no-no in the face of adversity is to over-react. The system is about knowing exactly how to respond. If you don't know how to respond, it is better to do as little as necessary. If you panic, you do the wrong things and leave more openings for your opponents. We can see how this works now in the Obama campaign where they are still reeling for the convention/Palin setbacks. Frantically looking for traction, their latest commercial attacks McCain for not using a computer for email.

Redividing the Ground: Palin as VP Pick

Part of Sun Tzu's rules for picking the right battles is knowing how to "divide" the ground. ("You can divide the ground and yet defend it." AOW 6:3:15) We get locked into seeing the ground as fixed and limited, but new ground is constantly being created by the way we divide it. ("Surprise is as infinite as the weather and land." AOW 5:2:5) For example, listening to the Sunday talk shows, the pundits don't seem to realize that Palin redivides the ground in a new way. No, she doesn't get the hard-core Hillary feminist who is pissed at Obama.

Understanding the Tradeoffs: Choosing the Value that You Prefer

Sun Tzu's strategy teaches us to look for advantageous trade-offs. There is no such thing as a free lunch, but we can buy what we value more using a currency that we value less. Free societies are more prosperous simply because they allow people more of these types of choices. The more control we give to government, the more "value" is determine by central authority and the fewer choices we are free to make.

Improving Position: How War Makes Us Happier

Sun Tzu teaches the our perceptions must always different from reality. For example, what is your perception of the increasing happiness of people all over the world? If you follow news media, you would think that people are suffering from record levels of unhappiness. However, the opposite is actually true. The best subjective measure of improving positions is not our perceptions of others, but their perception of themselves. When people are asked about their own happiness, the results are surprising.

Strategy in a Blink!

Strategy means many different things to different people. For some, it is a plan. For others, it is a flash of inspiration. Sun Tzu's strategy is different, but it wasn't until I read Blink! by Malcolm Gladwell (the author of "The Tipping Point") that I saw that what Sun Tzu invented was really a "rapid cognition" system for competitive situations. It's main value isn't in providing deep, detailed analysis.

Individualism and Positioning: The War Against Babies

Strategy starts with the idea that every single person on earth has a unique position and a unique set of goals. It teaches that we can work together when we share a mission, but it is our individual uniqueness and our individual human creativity that makes progress possible in an infinite number of predictable directions. This is the most magical aspect of Sun Tzu's Sun Tzu's strategy and the deep, vibrant heart of its power. It is also why those who believe in Sun Tzu's strategy must reject the idea that any elite can know what is best for other people.

The Illusion of Control: The Dying Book Industry

Competitive survival begins with the recognition that you cannot control the competitive environment no matter how much of that environment you control. The illusion of control is the most deadly for the biggest companies who lack active competitors. As a book publisher, I have been trying to tell people in this retail book channel how their slow cycle times and costly outdated practices were deadly.

Leadership and Character

Sun Tzu defines good leadership as mostly a matter of strong character. I blame my own weaknesses of character on the fact that, for the most part, I have lived a highly-protected, comfortable life. My father, however, lived through the Bataan Death march, seeing ten thousand of his fellow American servicemen die in seven days, and then surviving four more years while starving in Japanese prisoner of war camps. Most of our political "leaders," like I, have lived shallow, comfortable lives, but Senator McCain offers us something different.

Cooperation, Competition, and Conflict

A reader writes (condensed from a much longer message):
"I don't consider Sun Tzu to be a particularly useful model for modern business practice...In business we have a choice of looking in two directions: either towards our competitors...or towards our customers. My first thought would be to establish a co-operative relationship with my customers rather than concentrate on competition..."

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