Strategy Institute

The Quality of Ideas

Sun Tzu taught that ideas are the key to survival and destruction. However, in a wealthy society, such as ours, survival is easy. The result is that many ideas that are inherently self-destructive are allowed to thrive simply because they are entertaining. Unfortunately, more and more people are believing these silly ideas, not because they conform with real life but because they conform with the fictional world of movies and television.

The Dynamic Society

Sun Tzu's strategy is designed to deal with the unpredictable nature of a dynamic environment. The most common mistake social reformers make is viewing and analyzing highly dynamic elements of society as if they were static. As we mentioned in the last post, the common goal of both the ancient feudal lords of Sun Tzu's time and modern socialist reformers is to create a static social order for the "common good" of society. Sun Tzu taught that the real world environment is too complex and dynamic for that to work.

The Significance of the Annapolis Meeting

Sun Tzu taught that actions always speaking louder than words. In Sun Tzu's strategy, the value of informaiton is often more easily understood in terms of costs. Verbal statements cost little or nothing to make and are always open to a wide variety of interpretations. Physical actions, however, no matter how minor, always involve some cost. This is why the most tivial actions, such as crossing a little stream such as the Rubicon, can have such an large impact.

Completing the Cycle in Iraq

One of the basic premises of strategy is that strategic progress only takes place when you finish the cycle that we call "listen-aim-move-claim" or, in Sun Tzu's more general terminology, "knowing, seeing, moving, positioning." Like a bridge with a missing span, an incomplete progress cycle is all investment with no reward.

The Unseen Opportunity

Sun Tzu's strategy teaches that opportunities are both 1) right in front of you and 2) hard to see. Why is something that is right in front of you is hard to see? Because your perspective, which is subjective and not objective, blocks your view. As human beings, we get locked into certain views of our situations, which filter out information that doesn't fit our mindset. Sun Tzu's entire system for strategic analysis was developed to overcome this problem.

Two Strategies

Sun Tzu's strategy is the science of experimentation. All strategy depends on the "rules of the ground," but unlike a game, strategy teaches that each new ground has its own rules. For example, what works on the new ground of the Internet isn't the same as what works on the new ground of nanotech. The principles of strategy are a set of metarules that allow us to discover the rules of any particular new ground quickly, cheaply, and safely. However, when good strategy allows you to discover the rules of the ground you are on, you must act on that knowledge.

Good Strategist or Calculating

The whole point of strategy is to carefully gage your position with the clear awareness that everything you do affects it in some way or another. I have often said that Hillary is by far the best strategist in the Democratic Party, but I worry about the party because being a strategist apparently makes you a target:
She's a triangulator. A trimmer. A carefully calculating pol who says what people want to hear. A canny candidate who is allergic to specifics.

Value, Risk, and Reward

Sun Tzu taught that advancing in small, certain steps were always preferable to using larger, riskier steps. What science considers "illogical" choices are very logical when we factor in the difference between controlled environment, where planning works, and competitive environments, where strategy works. Good strategy seeks to exploit the mistakes people naturally make in calculating risk and reward. Planning assumes that the future is controllable and predictable.


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