Sun Tzu's strategy deals with competition among people, and people cannot be controlled and predicted as if they were objects. Since our education teaches us to work with objects, not people, we want to believe that people can or should be controlled as though they were objects. While most people today see this as a problem, Sun Tzu teaches us that it is really an opportunity.
In learning Sun Tzu's methods, we learn to find advantages in situations and events that no one can control. In dynamic, competitive environments, events are not determined by anyone but by everyone. In these environments, everyone's plans collide resulting in what no one planned. Critical resources are contested. The key decisions come from six billion different directions. In these environments, we don't have the time or information to develop a plan of predetermined steps. We need the instant insight into rapidly changing conditions so we can make the right decisions quickly. When we master those skills, we instantly have an advantage over all the other players.
The World Outside of Our Control
The hard truth is that virtually everyone in the world is outside our direct control. The important decisions that we make are about unexpected events that arrive unannounced at our door. This is the realm of the warrior. Our information about what is happening and might happen is limited. In our constantly changing environments, our most valuable resource is the ability to take quick, decisive action. Our world constantly creates unique situations, which require responses, many of these situations are opportunities that look like problems because we didn't plan for them.
Success in the world outside of our control does not come from planning. In these dynamic arenas, a series of pre-determined steps leading to a predictable result is impossible. There is no pre-defined series of steps that will take a us from where we are to where the world is inviting us to go. As the saying goes, our plans do not survive first contact with the enemy. If we want to pursue the opportunities that life offers, we have to recognize them and take advantage of them when they arrive. They don't arrive on any schedule or according to any human plan.
The Adaptive Loop
Instead of a linear planning, we make decisions using a feedback loop. The loop starts with determining what our situation is. As we take actions, we have to determine the effect of those actions before making our next move. The goal of each cycle is to improve our position, but we do not know the direction in which we will move until we see what the situation offers. We call this loop the Progress Cycle or, more simply, listen-aim-move-claim. After mastering strategy, it becomes an automatic way of thinking about situations.
Developing our warrior's reflexes starts with the humble acceptance that competitive environments are outside of our control. Any competitive arena—the marketplace, the job market, or a sports arena—is defined by its complexity and unpredictability. We can learn to navigate these environments but only by utilizing the quickly shifting forces within them.
While planning is like running a train on a schedule, the warrior's way is like sailing. We have constantly adjust to the changing winds and currents. Good decisions must be based on conditions not on our plans.
Dealing with Complexity
Competitive environments are both much larger and much more complex than we can consciously understand. Many players are unknown. Individuals and groups behave in unpredictable ways. Competitors actively mislead each other about their plans. People often act on an impulse, reacting to fast-changing conditions. The competitive environment is a puzzle that reshapes itself continuously.
This environment has too much information. We don't have time to collect it all. If we could collect it, situations are too complicated and fast-changing to predict. Success depends upon selecting the appropriate moves for the specific situation within a limited time. This also demands creativity, finding new moves that are made possible by the unique nature of the situation.
Sun Tzu's Rules provides the mental models needed to make sense of that environment. These models are explained in our Sun Tzu's Play Book. They allow us to pull the key information out of a chaotic environment, identify opportunities, minimize our mistaes, and make better decisions every day.
Our instant recognition of the key aspects of these situations allows us to instantly tailor our responses. T
raining allows us to know the type of the response required by each aspect of the situation. We can mix aspects of our response in just the right proportions to create something new. Our trained strategic reflexes unleash our human creativity in bursts of instant insight.
Success demands an understanding of competitive situations that becomes intuitive and reflexive. That level of understanding generates flashes of insight and inspiration. You
cannot plan on insight, but where does it come from? Read on...