Business

Spread-Out Positions: the Weakness of Obama's Speech

In Sun Tzu's strategy, a spread-out position tries to defend too much territory. It loses its focus and leaves many openings for attack, which is why it is defined as weak. Obama's speech addressing race illustrates how easily this mistake can be made. Obama's strong positioning came from being a candidate that transcended race and party, something that all America can applaud. Unequaled as an orator, he should have embraced the opportunity to solidify this position when the firestorm about his pastor gave him the opportunity.

Competitive Unpredictability - The Fall of Bear Stearns

Since all competitive contests are on-going and past winners continue winning at least for awhile, we have the illusion of control and predictability where they cannot exist. Over time, past winners must fall and new winners arise in unexpected ways. Bear Stearns, the once dominant investment bank, is a great illustration. I am sure the company was on every leftist list of "evil bankers" who control the world. Today, of course, Bear Stearns is no more, bought out for pennies on the dollar.

Cooperation, Competition, and Conflict

A reader writes (condensed from a much longer message):
"I don't consider Sun Tzu to be a particularly useful model for modern business practice...In business we have a choice of looking in two directions: either towards our competitors...or towards our customers. My first thought would be to establish a co-operative relationship with my customers rather than concentrate on competition..."

Practical Examples of Strategy

One of my projects for the next year is to collect as many examples, primarily business examples, of good and bad strategy. Stories that illustrate the lessons of positioning, unity, focus, innovation, and so on. The problem with most "news" reports is that they are little more than press releases for large corporations: focusing on products, deals, and the moment rather than anything meaningful about strategy. Off of the top of my head, I only know of one television that portrays the application of good strategy as it should be.

Sun Tzu and Adam Smith

Over a recent vacation, I was reading about Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, which I hadn't read in years, and I was surprised to find a surprising convergence between Sun Tzu's ideas and Adam Smiths. The most surprising was Adam Smith's explanation of the relationship between the country and towns as what we call "complementary opposites." So much so that I did a rewrite of Book 3 of The Wealth of Nations with an introduction connecting the two sets of ideas. You can read it here.

The Price of Size

A reader writes:
As you move up the corporate ladder, you are forced to play more and more politics, and for an entrepreneur like myself it is the hardest part cause I feel like its all a wasted time.

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