Strategy Institute

Information and the Competitive Environment

A reader asks:
In applying Sun Tzu's concept of ground and climate, would it be correct to equate "ground" with the past voting habits of a specific group of voters (or Congressional District for instance) and "climate" with the current opinions of those voters?
The short answer is not really. The ground is not past voting habits, but all potential voters, the people themselves. The climate includes all the forces shaping their opinions, but not just the opinions themselves.

Losing Track of Your Core Mission

In listing his five key elements to a strategy, Sun Tzu noted that "methods" must always conform to "the way," that is, your goals. or mission. Why was this warning necesssary? Because our methods, what we call systems, tend to take on a lfe of their own, expanding and growing well beyond their original purpose. This is famously true of government operations, but it is also true of most other organizations as well. They all lose their way. Not only that, but Sun Tzu's Principle of Reversal tells us that missions can reverse themselves: what was once the goal becomes the enemy.

Understanding the Power Curve

An important part of Sun Tzu's strategy is the amplifying effect of growing networks. I call this effect, the "power curve." For Sun Tzu, reputation, innovation, momentum, esprit d'corps, and many other elements of strategy depend on the power curve, which are generally misunderstood among a general population that prefers to think in staight lines.

The Science of Ignorance

Strategy was developed to consistently make the best of situations that cannot be controlled and are very incompletely understood. The "fog of war" is a necessary condition of all competitive situations. In a competitive situation, no one reveals their plans and everyone's plans collide creating conditions no one can plan. Many find this concept difficult to understand because more and more of us are living under the increasing illusion that modern science has all the answers. The truth is much more difficult: the more science advances, the more we discover that we do not know.

The Expert Performance Movement

Sun Tzu taught that the art of war was a skill, by which he meant that it wasn't innate. You have to learn to strategy through training. The new "Expert Performance Movement," which studies what those who excel have in common no matter what field they work in. They come to a interesting conclusion.
Deliberate practice entails more than simply repeating a task... Rather, it involves setting specific goals, obtaining immediate feedback and concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.

Climate in China

Sun Tzu was the first to articulate the idea that climate was one of the key factors in warfare. A recent scientific study not only verifies the role of climate, but with a formula that could have come straight from the The Art of War: cold climate = hot war. Question: Does this make the fight against "global warming" is a form of warmongering?

New Books and MP3s

A reader asks if we are releasing any new books this year. We are releasing three new paperback editions of our most popular books that INCLUDE a free MP3 download of the audio version of the book. We just got these book in (though most won't be in the bookstores until fall, their official release date.) These books are: The Art of War Plus the Ancient Chinese Revealed, The The Art of War for the Sales Warrior (old title: Art of Sales)

The Cost of Competition

People reading Sun Tzu for the first time are surprised by how important managing costs are to his system of competition, but before anything else, he teaches that we must manage our resources well. It is easy to spend money in competition and get little for it. the words of John McCain summarizing his campaign troubles can be applied to almost any losing campaign:
"We didn't use the money in the most effective way," he said.


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