Conan, NBC, and the Limited Situation

Conan O'Brien's has effectively out-maneuvered NBC by refusing to move with the Tonight Show to 12:05. His decision is a great demonstration of how easily much larger opponents are challenged in a transitional situation that relies on a few key resources. This is technically known in strategy as a limited situation (6.4.8 Limited Situations). NBC, not recognizing their situation, made a classical strategic mistake and they will pay for it dearly, one way or another.

Limited situations call for secrecy. If you cannot conduct the transition secretly, you cannot get into a limited situation (6.5.8 Limited Response). No matter how big an organization, the limited situations makes them vulnerable to a much smaller force. When NBC announced this change, we assumed that they had already secretly come to an agreement with O'Brien. The fact that they didn't and thought they could make this transition in public, presenting it as a fait accompli, demonstrates how little they understand the basic rules of strategy, especially situations where size becomes a weakness (3.4 Dis-Economies of Scale).

NBC will probably magnify their blunder by going ahead with their plan despite Conan's refusal, largely because they want to appear in control (2.3.1 Action and Reaction). This will again demonstrate how little they understand strategy and the natural limits of control (8.1.2 Control Limits).

Warrior's Rules: 

Competitive Arenas: