5.5.1 Force Size

The eight keys to limiting the size of force in an advance.

Art of War Quote: 

"Using a huge army in battle success is very expensive.
Long delays create a dull army and sharp defeats.
"
Sun Tzu The Art of War 2:1:12

Perspective: 

"Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived." Abraham Lincoln

General Principle: 

To explore opportunities, choose actions that require a minimum of force.

Situation: 

While there are competitive situations where we must use all of our resources to survive, choosing our actions for exploring opportunities is never one of them. Exploring new opportunities requires a minimum rather than maximum use of force. When we constantly invest too much in each opportunity, we soon find ourselves out of resources. Large forces take more time to organize and they always move slower since, to stay together, they are tied to the pace of their slowest component.

Opportunity: 

We learn to separate the concept of "force" and "strength" from that of "power." Strategic power comes from unity and focus (1.7 Competitive Power). Strategic strength arises when we target an opposing weakness (3.5 Strength and Weakness). Both depend on leveraging the situation. Force, on the other hand, is simply using an abundance of resources to overpower a challenge or problem.

Key Methods: 

 These are the rules defining the use of strategic force.

  1. Force is a matter of the size of effort. When we talk about the size of a strategic force, we are talking about the size of the investment we make in a move. These investments are made in whatever resources are appropriate to the situation: manpower, money, reputation, relationships, emotion, and so on (3.3 Opportunity Resources).
  2. Force is successful at too great a cost. This is based on the simple economics of opportunity. We use minimum force in exploring opportunities to reduce our costs. The bigger the investment we make, the more difficult it is for any opportunity to return more benefits than its costs (3.1 Strategic Economics).
  3. The use of force limits the opportunities that we can explore. Our resources are always limited. The more force we use, the fewer opportunities we can afford to explore. Too much use of force eventually depletes the resources that we need to defend our existing position (3.1.1 Resource Limitations).
  4. Even with force, most opportunities produce limited returns. We can hope each opportunity will provide a huge step forward, but we know that most will disappoint us. Most advances that we make in our position are small. Often all we gain from our efforts is a better picture of our situations (3.1.5 Unpredictable Value).
  5. The use of force alone often generates an escalation of opposing force. This is Newton's Third Law: "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." In competitive situations, the use of force tends to create wars of attrition where both sides expend resources instead of leveraging strategy (2.3.1 Action and Reaction).
  6. Small advances can be profitable if we limit our use of force. Each  small advances can be profitable if we don't risk too much on any one of them. Over time, the accumulation of small advances dramatically improve our position over time. The small moves ideally put us in the right position at the right time to catch a major wave of climate change, but even if we are never that fortunate, our progress is constant and secure (3.1.2 Strategic Profitability).
  7. Amassing and using a large force take too much time. The larger the force we use, the slower it takes us to respond to an opportunity. The more difficult it is to move that force, since all groups are limited by their slowest member. Since all opportunities are limited in time, the larger the force involved, the more likely the opportunity is to get away from us (3.1.6 Time Limitations).
  8. Even potentially large opportunities are better tested by small, exploratory forces. These forces can gather information and discover the lay of the land much more quickly and efficiently than large forces. While we may need much more resources to fill a position, we have to remember that exploring a position is not the same as developing it. If an opportunity proves to have a very large potential, we will have time to increase the size of force. Ideally, we let the opportunity itself pay for its own development (8.2 Making Claims).

Illustration: 

Using large forces is a lot like going "all in" in Texas Hold'em. 

  1. Force is a matter of the size of effort. Going "all in" is the maximum effort.
  2. Force is successful at too great a cost. As they say, going "all in" works every time but the last. 
  3. The use of force limits the opportunities that we can explore. If we use this tool all the time, it is just a matter of time until we run into a hand that beats us.
  4. Even with force, most opportunities produce limited returns. All-In usually scares off opponents from calling when the pot is small, but then we can only win a small amount. When we eventually get unlucky and an opponent has a strong hand, possibly even the "nuts," we will almost always get called and likely lose everything for a usually small potential gain. The larger the pot--and the more desperate the opponent--the more likely it is that we will be called. Even when we go into the All-In with a strong hand, often winning is simply a matter of luck, since in any given showdown, the odds can go against us. Eventually our straight will meet another flush.
  5. The use of force alone often generates an escalation of opposing force. The more often a player uses the All-In, the more likely it is that he will get called because others will assume he is frequently bluffing.
  6. Small advances can be profits if we limit our use of force. We do not have to go All-In to get other players to drop out. A series of small raises often looks more threatening because it seems to invite a call.
  7. Amassing and using a large force take too much time. A large stack takes a great deal of time to accumulate but can be lost in a single All-In. It takes even longer if we are gambling with our own money, earned in the real world instead of the poker table.
  8. Even potentially large opportunities are better tested by small, exploratory forces. Since the rules of Hold-em eventually force an All-In, it is best to set up the All-in by a history of more conservative betting. Even within a given hand, the play works best after escalating from a series of smaller bets that test an opponent's resolve and build up potential winnings if the All-in forces the opponent out.