Action Decisions

Difficult Choices

A member of the Strategy School writes:
I can not help thinking that whatever direction I choose to take, it has to lead to some larger long term reward. I feel absolutely surrounded and overwhelmed by opportunity. But I feel that I’m searching for “the” route to the land of megabucks...Maybe I should focus on making lots of small decisions and like you say the big ones will fall into place.

Rediscovering Strategy

As we noted in the last post, momentum comes only from surprise. As those unfamiliar with strategy observe this effect, it always surprises them. For example, in a recent article about the presidential primaries, the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder observes:
Momentum seems to skip the next state up and seems to benefit the person who exceeded expectations, rather than the winner.

The Power of the Big Picture

Planning is about breaking a larger process into small detailed steps. Sun Tzu's strategy is about seeing the big picture in every small situation. Sun Tzu starts his book with the five key elements because people tend to focus on one or two of these elements and lose sight of the others. All contests always combine philosophy, climate, ground, leadership, and methods. Most contests require time to resolve the contest among these factors. Narrow, short-term, myopic views provide little useful strategic information.

A New Year

Strategy teaches that all positions are both objective, rooted in reality, and subjective, rooted in our impressions and imagination. The New Year is an imaginary boundary, but a useful one that beckons us to start changing our position for the better. The mistake is thinking that change comes in an instant, with a tick of the clock. Changing positions is a gradual process that forces us to move forward and preventing us from sliding back.

Teach Strategy to Teenagers

Sun Tzu taught that strategic skills must be taught. They are not instinctive. A recent study comparing the decision-making of teenagers to adults drive home this point. An interesting aspect of this article is the inability of the scientists to express the concept of strategic decision-making. The closest they can come is to call it "the gist" of the situation.

Misunderstanding Trends

Sun Tzu's strategy teaches us to see beyond change to the hidden systems driving change. Dynamic systems consist of complementary opposites as the driving forces that both compete with and feed off of each other. In any environment, the most dominant such forces are called "climate" and "ground," the force of change and the base of stability. New systems tend to shift dramatically back and forth before they find stability between competing forces.

The Wealth Gap

Sun Tzu's strategy is the science of comparing relative positions. Sun Tzu's strategy offers a system for understanding the dynamics of positions. These dynamics create short-term random "jitters" in positions, but when you understand them, you can harness their power to create long-term progress in one direction or another.

The Dynamic Society

Sun Tzu's strategy is designed to deal with the unpredictable nature of a dynamic environment. The most common mistake social reformers make is viewing and analyzing highly dynamic elements of society as if they were static. As we mentioned in the last post, the common goal of both the ancient feudal lords of Sun Tzu's time and modern socialist reformers is to create a static social order for the "common good" of society. Sun Tzu taught that the real world environment is too complex and dynamic for that to work.

Making the Claim: Alternative Viewpoints

Sun Tzu's strategy teaches that the subjective view of a situation is more important in terms of people's decisions than the objective situation. However, subjective viewpoints must be confirmed by their predictions of the future. A single viewpoint where no alternative views are allowed is a self-fullfilling prophecy. All the decisions make the subjective reality real. Only alternative viewpoints allow different, possible futures. This is why any student of strategy must seek alternative views. A single "concensus" view is nothing but blinders leading us down a single path.


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