The Art of War

artofwarWhile recently traveling to LA I picked up a copy of The Art of War by Sun Tzu (Translation by Thomas Cleary… Shambhala Dragon Editions). This has always been one of my favorite strategy/business books as it is amazing to me how applicable 6th century BC teachings outlining success in battle are to current day business and corporate culture.

What I really admire is that success even then was defined by more than winning. Winning is key in today’s corporate culture but many people differ on their thoughts and approaches to achieving victory.

It was very interesting to revisit the importance of the human element specifically the human psyche and how vital “fullness” is to success on the battlefield and the boardroom.

Some of the other interesting concepts are as follows:

One of the principles outlined was the importance of “fullness”. Fullness is when leadership and subordinates are of like mind and operate together. Emptiness is the presence of rifts and dissatisfaction within the team. If this exists it is difficult to achieve the overall objective. It is important to empower your team so that “fullness” may be realized.

Regarding leadership “Leaders plan in the beginning when they do things” and “Leaders consider problems and prevent them”. This speaks to the importance of planning and having a clear understanding of more than just what is directly in front of you.

In terms of defining leadership Sun Tzu stated that Leadership is a matter of intelligence (plan and know) , trustworthiness , humaneness (Compassion), courage (Seize opportunities to make certain of victory), and sternness (establish discipline).

Make yourself invincible, and then watch for vulnerability in their opponents. This really speaks to the importance of knowing yourself, strengths and weaknesses. Thus recognize areas where you are weak and make them strong.

The success of military operations was dependent on the harmony of the people. This is directly applicable to business today as those in harmony will contribute naturally, without being exhorted to do so.

And finally it is the unemotional, reserved, calm, detached individual who wins. Not those seeking vengeance or ambitious seekers of fortune.

“So a military force has no constant formation, water has no constant shape: the ability to gain victory by changing and adapting according to the opponent is called genius.”

If you have not read it I would recommend it. It is a quick read and it is interesting to see how little has actually changed in terms of what is required to be successful in any competitive situation.

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