Change Is Balanced: Not Good or Evil

Strategic cognition requires seeing the environment from the Asian perspective of balancing forces. Most of us are exposed from childhood to the media that trains us, incorrectly, that all changes are bad. Is it bad if housing prices are falling? Not if you are buying your first house. Is it bad if the dollar is falling? Not if you are selling American products abroad because this makes them cheaper. Is it bad that oil prices are rising? Doesn't high prices discourage consumption and make other forms of energy more competitive? Is that bad?

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:

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a book publisher, I have been trying to tell people in this retail book channel how their slow cycle times and costly outdated practices were deadly.

Unhappiness From the News and Getting a Perspective

I went for a haircut today and had an interesting discussion with the person cutting my hair. She was unhappy and frightened. Why? It came down to the fact that she watched CNN. She had a perfectly good life, a good husband, a job, no financial real worries, but she was certain she was worse off than any previous generation of human with global warming, the economy, the war in Iraq, and a million other things that were not a part of her life, but on television. I explained to her that the news media makes their money by scaring people and that she had to factor that in.

The Illusion of Control

Occasionally I get email from those who express the firm belief that the world is controlled by some menacing force, but Sun Tzu’s work was suppressed in China to maintain the illusion that life is or can be controlled in this sense. The Chinese emperors and many governments today don’t want their people to realize that, no matter what our position, we can rise or fall in the world by our own actions. Sun Tzu's strategy teaches that we have no control over the larger environment but that we can adapt to it and use it to reach our personal goals.

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.


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