A New Strategy for a New Era of Information

Today's new media brings us a flood of information, but the problem is that this information makes decision-making more difficult.

Without the tools that Sun Tzu provides, identifying what is important is like finding a needle in a haystack. The value of Sun Tzu's strategy is that its methods are designed to work where we know we can never have all the key information we need. Its methods are like a magnet pulling a few of the critical pieces of information from that haystack.

In a controlled environment, inside an organization, good information, especially about the plans of others, ensures good predictions about the future. However, in the larger, competitive environment, you cannot predict the future*. Your position inside your company may seem secure, but in a marketplace customers are free to decide what they do. This means that while you may be able to predict that you can make a cake, you cannot predict that anyone in the marketplace will buy it.

In reality, we operate with incomplete information* as a matter of course. Competitive environments are filled with misinformation. They are filled with outdated information. The limitations of information affect buyers as well as sellers. Our only guide to the future in competitive environments is the past. And while there is some continuity with the past, new alternatives are constantly being offered.

We can make decisions based only upon our subjective impressions*. The less information we have, the more our subjective impressions differ from the physical reality. In chess, opposing players have access to all relevant information except each others' plans. In real-life competition, some people have information that others don't have. No matter how good our inside information, by definition we are outsiders to most of the world.

The strategic method first gathers as much relevant information as quickly as possible. They then quickly filter that information so that actions can be taken safely, but each move is a probe designed to test our information and gain additional information that we could not have gotten without action. The final step is recognizing both our successes and failures.

For a complete description of the process of advancing positions in competitive business environments, we suggest you read our book, 9 Formulas for Business Success: The Science of Strategy.

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