There Is Always an Opening

Sun Tzu teaches that the world is so large and complex that there always must be an opening for you to exploit against your opponents. It is the complexity of the world that make openings hard to see. You have to believe that there is an opening to spend the time and effort looking for it. The truth is that even the smallest errors by your opponents can create a large opportunity.

The Collapse of Societies

Sun Tzu taught that organizations grow until their protected, internal elements are divided from their external competitive elements. In their internal region of control, planning works, creating stable hierarchies of elites. These elites gradually raise the costs of external competition so that the organization can no longer support itself. The chaotic, independent, creative action of the common people required for successful external competition is controlled out of existence and the organization fails.

Optimistic or Pessimistic?

Sun Tzu's strategy is neither pessimistic or optimistic. Rather, it is a system for controlling investments while determining whether pessimism or optimism is warranted. A recent book called Breaking Muphy's Law (review here) looks at optimism or pessimism from a scientific viewpoint. The book considers research that harkens back to Sun Tzu's basic principles. According to the review:

A Comic Book Tribute to Planning

We often say that strategy is the opposite of planning. Strategy starts by realizing that control of the environment is impossible. The mistake of planning is assuming that internal control can be extended everywhere. Even if it could, the picture isn't pretty, even in a comic book. The only addition that I would make is that during a war internal planning is necessary because of the uniting focus on the external threat. Only in a crisis of survival do everyone's desires become one.

The Freedom to Decide

Each strategic position is unique: you are the only one who can decide which moves work from your position. Free societies have created unparalleled success and prosperity because individuals were not just permitted but actually forced to make decisions for themselves. We have no "masters" that we can turn to who can rightfully decide for us. The freedom to choose is both a right and a responsibility.

Losing Track of Your Core Mission

In listing his five key elements to a strategy, Sun Tzu noted that "methods" must always conform to "the way," that is, your goals. or mission. Why was this warning necesssary? Because our methods, what we call systems, tend to take on a lfe of their own, expanding and growing well beyond their original purpose. This is famously true of government operations, but it is also true of most other organizations as well. They all lose their way. Not only that, but Sun Tzu's Principle of Reversal tells us that missions can reverse themselves: what was once the goal becomes the enemy.

Connecting Climate and the Ground

Sun Tzu's view of strategy is organic. His model for a strategic position is like a growing plant. A position completes the circuit of climate and ground in the same way that a plant connects the sunlight with the nutrients of the earth. The chemisty of the plant provides its skills of methods and decision-making. Its DNA is its philosophy.


Subscribe to RSS - Personal