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Sun Tzu's The Art of War:
The Classic Book for All Seasons

(continued)

  • Weaknesses and Strengths:   How to identify the best match-up by matching one's strengths to the weaknesses of the competition.
  • Maneuver:   How to tactically deploy and shift your forces before and during the combat.
  • The Nine Variables:   How to adapt to the realities of battle, which means one must adapt to the advantages and disadvantages of the moment that often determine victory or defeat.
  • Marches:   What it takes to lead oneself and the team through the challenge of the mission.
  • Terrains:   The different types of obstacles that one can face and how to deal with them.
  • The Nine Varieties of Ground:   Reacting to different situations and how to take advantage of these.
  • Attacking by Fire:   Identifying the different types of influences and how to use them (my favorite chapter).
  • Employment of Secret Agents:   The importance of gathering competitive intelligence on the competition and how to employ tactics against the competition.

Principles

The following are some of Sun Tzu's principles for those who are competing in the global marketplace:

  1. When deciding to enter into a new competitive area or marketplace, the costs of competition are the most important issue one must consider.
  2. In a competitive campaign, the best strategy to assure success is to avoid building a large army, deploying direct attacks and long confrontations.
  3. Embrace the risks of the competition to discover its rewards.
  4. When competing on equal grounds, the chance for success in a new competitive area is nil and min. From his essay on war, Sun Tzu advises that one can prepare for losses by keeping their investment small and their contests quick. Small, quick, failed efforts are easier to sustain and will get us more quickly to a successful effort that counts.
  5. The best resources to compete in a new market arena can be found from your competition.
  6. The most valuable income and resources are those that you take from the competition.
  7. Contests for resources are usually the most important for long-term success.

Position, dominance, and controlling people’s minds are all extremely important in Sun Tzu’s system of competition. However, these are not usually won through a competitive battle. Throughout The Art of War, Sun Tzu talks about attacking "areas that opponents must defend."

The Art of War / Sun Tzu book cover

These areas represent supply lines, sources of food and water, and any other resources necessary to winning a war. A basic Sun Tzu first plan of attack is usually to secure the resources of the competition beginning with identification of an opponent’s resources. If these are not properly secured, then take them with overwhelming force. If these are won, share the rewards with those who helped us obtain them. At the same time, add these resources to our own supplies. Also, proper advertisement of that victory can weaken the enemy, while it makes the expeditor stronger.

There have been many articles and interpretations on this ancient Chinese text, The Art of War. My favorites are Samuel Griffith and Thomas Cleary. For those who are business-minded, I highly recommend Mark McNeilly’s book Sun Tzu and The Art of Business. Now in its sixth printing, it also includes the entire thirteen chapters from Samuel Griffith interpretation of Sun Tzu's original book, The Art of War.

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The Art of War / Sun Tzu book cover The Art of War

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