Business

Human Progress

Sun Tzu's strategy teaches that progress is always possible and that we are more likely to have to adapt to change from progress than from failure. On the radio and at public events, I hear from people who are certain that things have never been so bad. As a response, I plan to memorize this paragraph from a recent George Will column:

Synchronizing Internal and External Rewards: The Democratic Primaries

Every organization should reward the internal behavior the generates external competitive results, but many organizations create internal reward systems that are at add with winning external rewards. Sun Tzu's strategy teaches that every competitive arena (ground) has its own rules. The rules of making a profit in business are different from the rules from winning a baseball game and both are different from the rules that winning an election.

Dynamic Positioning versus Sticking to the Plan: The Iraq Army

The mist common strategic mistake is confusing dynamic positioning with planning. Sun Tzu's strategy is the fluid response to the immediate situation, not the execution of predetermined steps. The unpredictability of the environment is the real enemy. Military leaders have to be the first to understand this. For example, the Iraqi military is becoming effective today primarily for one reason: they are learning to respond to the situation instead of fearfully following orders.

Positions that Attract Support Rather than Attacks

The concept of "winning without conflict" is based on creating positions that attract supporters while being difficult to attack. One problem with large organizations is that, though their growth is always fueled by attracting supporters, as they get larger, they start to think that they don't need these supporters. Again, Apple offers us a good example in their relationship with Adobe as explained in this article.

Finding Open Territory: Reversing the Rules

In our training programs, we show people how to develop a simple competitive map of their industry using a tool that we call the Strategy Analysis Matrix. This matrix condenses the five competitive dimensions of Sun Tzu's Warrior's Rules into a two-dimensional representation. The purpose of this tool is to identify the market openings that represent opportunity. One of the companies we use to illustrate the use of this map is Apple. Apple is particularly good at finding the open spaces in the market that others are missing.

The Illusion of Control: The Dying Book Industry

Competitive survival begins with the recognition that you cannot control the competitive environment no matter how much of that environment you control. The illusion of control is the most deadly for the biggest companies who lack active competitors. As a book publisher, I have been trying to tell people in this retail book channel how their slow cycle times and costly outdated practices were deadly.

Response and Defense

People often confuse responding appropriately to challenges, which is always good, with the idea of defending an existing position, which is often bad. When we focus on shoring up defenses--lots of examples during the course of political and sports contests--we often lose sight of the key elements of the situation. Often the situation is that we are in a position that we shouldn't have gotten into in the first place and the best response is getting out of it.

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