A reader asks:
In applying Sun Tzu's concept of ground and climate, would it be correct to equate "ground" with the past voting habits of a specific group of voters (or Congressional District for instance) and "climate" with the current opinions of those voters?
The short answer is not really. The ground is not past voting habits, but all potential voters, the people themselves. The climate includes all the forces shaping their opinions, but not just the opinions themselves.
Strategic methods are necessary in competitive environments because of the lack of good information about the future
. In this recent article about strategy and planning,
I explain that planning works where information about the future is good, while strategy is necessary where information about the future is bad.
This bad information is typified by information about past voting habits and political polls. In my article on planning
, I describe the nature of environments without good information, where people are free to make new decisions, this way.
In these environments, the only guide to the future is the past. All planning for the future must be based to on outdated information. Using planning to decide future actions in these environments is like driving a car forward when you can only see out the rear window. It is disastrous.
I am not saying that past votes and opinion polls tell you nothing about voters. They tell you exactly the same things that looking out the rear window tells you about the road ahead. The road probably
continues in more or less the same direction for awhile. Maybe you can keep the car on the road looking out the back, at least for awhile. Sooner or later, however, the road will turn too much, too quickly and you will be in the ditch.
However, strategy is a little more complicated because the future direction of the road hasn't yet been decided. Your decisions and actions can actually shape the road ahead. The road is shaped by new decisions. You can create new alternatives that give people new options. Past decisions only bring you to where you are at the present. From where you are now, any direction is possible, except turning back the clock. Sun Tzu's strategy isn't just about choosing the right direction to steer. It is also about creating the path and influencing others in their future path.