Sun Tzu's Methods

First Mover Advantage: Another Lesson from 2008 Presidential Politics

Everyone knows about the strategic need for speed. 2,500 years ago, Sun Tzu wrote that the best time to move is while your opponent is still planning, perhaps the first statement about how strategy favors action over planning. IWe call this the first mover advantage, but the Internet has changed the rules of time and space even more fundamentally to an "any time/any place" mentality that makes the need for speed even more important.

Taking from Your Opposition: The Lessons of the Presidential Election

Though Sun Tzu teaches winning without conflict, he did teach the need to compete directly for resources. Resources that you take from your opponent are worth many times the resources your get on your own. For example, in an election you can invest your efforts one of two ways: by getting more of your voters to the polls or by taking voters away from your opponent. The math is simple: votes from your voters are worth one in the margin of victory, but votes from your opponent's voters are worth two: the vote you gain and the vote your opponent loses.

Mapping the Elements

Competitive Arenas: 

The ancient Chinese developed several systems for mapping their five elements to illustrate the key relationships among them. Ancient diagramming started with divination, which was the main purpose of the I Ching (Yijing), or "book of changes." The I Ching created a special way to decipher the universe that incorporated three parts: xiang (images), shu (numbers), and li (meanings).

Sun Tzu's Five Elements

Competitive Arenas: 

In Sun Tzu's system, the five traditional elements are replaced by the five elements that define the competitive world: mission (path), ground, climate, command, and methods. The most interesting of these is the "mission," which is the center to his formation, because it was adopted from the Taoist school. As with the traditional Chinese philosophical systems, his five elements are reflected in many different aspects of his analysis and methodology.

Chinese science and philosophy: some cultural knowledge needed to understand the original text

Competitive Arenas: 

We cannot understand the original text of The Art of War without understanding its underlying cultural context.  In Sun Tzu's own era, even our English title of the work, borrowed from a book on the military by Machiavelli, would have been considered inapproapriate.


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