Art of War Quote:
"Stay close to home to await the distant enemy."
Sun Tzu's The Art of War 7:5:13
"Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps." Saul Bellow
The danger here is the romance of distance. The grass always seems greener somewhere else. The problem is that the further we travel, the bigger our investment in effort and time. The bigger our investment, the more costly it is for us to explore opportunities. The more costly exploration is, the less of it we can afford to do and the less we will profit in general from advancing our position.
This principle of using short moves is based on the simple economics of exploring opportunities (3.1 Strategic Economics). To identify the best opportunities, we look for openings that are close to home (4.4 Strategic Distance). In choosing the best actions to explore any opportunity, we use our closeness to the situations to our advantage. This means picking actions that minimize both the physical distance (4.4.1 Physical Distance) and the intellectual distance (4.4.2 Intellectual Distance) that we must travel. If our move to a new position requires others to move toward us, we must also minimize the distance that they have to cover as well.
The following keys describe why and how we choose actions that cover the least distance.
- Short steps are more powerful. This means we not only look for opportunities that are nearby, but we also move toward those opportunities by the shortest possible open route. The longer the route we choose, the more chances there are that we will encounter unforeseen problems. The ideal moves forward are always local ones. We must learn to prefer opportunities that are physically close to where we are now and intellectually close to what we already know (4.4 Strategic Distance).
- We also want to shorten the distance our supporters must cover. While we tend to talk about exploring opportunities in terms of how far we must go, it is always the reaction of others that determines our success or failure. If we want the support of others, we must find ways to shorten their route, making it easier for them to do so. The closer we can get to them, the easier it is for them to support us (2.3.1 Action and Reaction).
- Minimizing distance means simplifying our moves. In terms of testing the ground for value, simple tests are always better than more complicated ones. They are easier to execute and their results are easier to understand. While it is true that there are no shortcuts to success, we should always be looking for shortcuts when it comes to exploring opportunities. It is easier to test ground that we mostly understand rather than ground that is more foreign to us. (5.4.1 Testing Value).
- The shortest route is that most in line with our current mission. Our mission sets the direction. While conditions and the nature of the ground can make a detour the shortest route, our mission is the compass that guides us (1.6 Mission Values)
- The shortest route follows the dominant trends of climate. Change can bring the future to us so that we don't have to go to it. Having the wind at our backs makes every journey shorter ((1.4.1 Climate Shift).
- The shortest route goes around obvious barriers. Going around barriers is usually easier than going over them. We do not want to fight gravity any more than we want to fight the wind (4.5.2 Opportunity Barriers).
- The shortest route demands decisions that are easier to make. If a decision is difficult to make the problem is knowledge and information. Difficult decisions are a clear sign of intellectual distance (1.5.1 Command Leadership).
- The shortest route utlizes skills that we already have. This is the methods aspect of intellectual distance. The more skills we must master or the more systems we must develop, the longer and less favorable the route (4.4.2 Intellectual Distance)
Let us explain these principles using the illustration of developing a new product.
- Short steps are more powerful. A small simple product is better than a large complex one.
- We also want to shorten the distance our supporters must cover. An inexpensive, easy-to-buy, and easy to use product is better than an expensive and difficult one.
- Minimizing distance means simplifying our moves. Before developing a more sophisticated version, we should create a simpler prototype.
- The shortest route is that most in line with our current mission. Make sure that the product unifies and focuses the business rather than spreading it out.
- The shortest route follows the dominant trends of climate. The product should utilize popular technologies and relate to what is new and exciting.
- The shortest route goes around obvious barriers. If there are obvious difficulties implementing a given feature, find an alternative feature that addresses the problem in a different way.
- The shortest route demands decisions that are easier to make. If it is difficult to choose one feature at the expense of another, compromise.
- The shortest route utilizes skills that we already have. We develop for existing "off-the-shelf" assembly and distribution methods rather than ones that have to be developed from scratch.