Why learn Sun Tzu's Rules? To take advantage how our world is changing. Even though these principles go back 2,500 years, they are increasingly important in the increasingly competitive world of in which we now live.
Our education system teaches us how to transform objects through planning and management. Sun Tzu teaches us how to work with people to build competitive positions adapting to constant change. Back when we could plan on staying with the same organizations for a lifetime, we didn't have to decide about our competitive position every day. That world is gone forever. Our new competitive reality is one in which we must continually make decisions, consciously and unconsciously, about our competitive situation.
The Diminishing Returns of Planning
The industrial age was defined by hierarchical organizations and preplanned processes. Both minimized individual decision-making. Decisions were top-down, with most of us simply following orders. From the invention of the corporation with the railroads in the nineteenth century to the quality movement in the 1980's, the focus was on improving one-to-many processes--mass production, mass communication, etc.--and internal organization. Planning and organization created tremendous competitive advantage over competitors who were less productive. Competition was dominated by the productivity side of the equation.
This power of increased planning and organization has reached a point of diminished returns. Its methods have spread all over the world. China's, Brazil's, India's, and Indonesia's organizations are quickly catching up to those Europe and North America. These new economies, with their less expensive work forces, get much more leverage from training workers simply to follow orders. The playing field of productivity is being leveled rapidly.
A Networked World Requires More Decisions
The advantage is now shifting from the skills of production to the skills of competition. According to Sun Tzu's Rules, these two skills sets are complementary opposites. As one area advances past a certain point, the opposing set of skills grow more powerful. This power shift explains why networks are now more valuable than hierarchies and why individual decisions are more valuable than organization plans. Good hierarchies and plans are increasingly commonplace. Good networks and decisions are relatively rare.
Our information age is created by interconnected organizations and adaptive processes that demand constant decision-making. We live a world where one-to-many mass production systems are replaced by many-to-many networks of individuals whose focus is more on individual situations and specific conditions in the external environment. Productive competition is increasingly dominated by making good competitive decisions about conditions. These decisions create positions that dominate competitors with similar productive skills.
This change has three important shifts in value: 1) from top-down command to bottom-up or, more precisely, outside-in adaptability, 2) from following orders to making decisions, 3) from long-term planning to instant responses. Read what the research into decision-making says about the challenges of our more dynamic competitive world here.
Trapped In Linear Thinking
This is not the world for which we were trained. Our education system was designed to teach us a deterministic world view. The success of determinism in the industrial age made this training important. However, both as a philosophy and as a training model, linear thinking does not address the decision-rich world we live in.
More Information: More Problems or Opportunities?
Time flows in a line in one direction, but information flows in many dimensions. A linear worldview cannot cope with the flood of networked information in today's world. Using Sun Tzu's rules, we learn to use this information: 1) to better predict the future, 2) to create a more complete picture, 3) to expand our viewpoint, and 4) to systematically make better choices.
The Benefits and Skills of Adaptive Thinking
We must learn to act as decision-makers, taking command of our lives. We must make good choices every day. Sun Tzu's The Art of War teaches the adaptive methods that a commander needs. Our Sun Tzu's Play Book provides and easy, systematic way to learn these rules. The skills improve our ability to 1) understand our strategic position, 2) see our opportunities, 3) respond appropriately to situations, and 4) make more creative decisions.
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