Chinese Philosophy

Misconceptions about Sun Tzu and Good Strategy

This article about the current financial crisis brilliant summarizes the skepticism about Sun Tzu in this quote from Lorelei Gilmore, a fictional character on the long-running “Gilmore Girls” sitcom:

“It’s a classic Sun Tzu ‘Art of War’ maneuver. If you’re being attacked from the east, attack whoever’s to your west, and you were the west. I never read the book. It’s full of crap like that.”

The Use of Climate

A Institute Member writes:

My biggest struggle is using Climate. My own prejudice gets in the way. I really hate it when I see any “sales” pitch that applies pressure to “buy now” because the sky is falling. Even when it’s true, I hate to see it used to influence or manipulate me. Therefore, I tend to soften the Climate and avoid any kind of buy now approach.

Creation and Destruction of Sun Tzu's Elements

Competitive Arenas: 

The center of Sun Tzu's system is the strategic position. A position consists of five elements. The interaction of these elements assures us that 1) new positions are constantly being created and 2) existing positions are constantly being destroyed. This means that all positions are dynamic. Even as we try to describe them, they are changing. This process is in Chinese philosophy known as the cycle of birth and death, creation an destruction.

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.


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