See How Jack Ma Applied the Art of War in Growing Your Business in Bad Times

In 2016 Zhejiang Businessmen Conference, Jack Ma gave a speech on “How to grow your business in a challenging time?”. You will find many concepts taught by Sun Zi’s Art of War in his speech. Here is his speech mind-mapped from the Art of War perspective. You can learn about the application of the Art of War by a very successful master.

The Mind-Map of the Art of War Oriented Speech:

Jack Ma put forward 13 key points in his speech. I reorganized them according to Sun Zi’s Five factors.

The Key Lessons:

  1. Transform to Stay Relevant:
    The most important concept is that any business must be constantly transforming itself to stay relevant to the market.  This echoed Peter Drucker’s quote “Business failed because their theory of business does not match reality”. The main teaching of the Art of War is 审时度势 – Read the Time & Trends and then response rightly.
  2. Develop Inner Core Strengths:
    Jack Ma said the inner strengths are about organization, talents, and culture. These are exactly the 法 method, 将 commanders/leadership, and 道 dao philosophy. The order is opposite of Sun Zi. But Jack Ma in other speeches said that Culture is key. So we see Jack did not have the order in mind. Sun Zi said that “Dao 道 is the thing that unites everyone from top to bottom to act together and they are not afraid to die and to live together. It is the mission, vision, and values of a business. It is the culture of the business.
  3. Leadership – Entrepreneurs vs Professional Manager
    Jack Ma used a hunting story to show the difference. An entrepreneur and a manager went hunting. They fired at a wild-boar. They missed. The manager would run away. But the entrepreneur will bring out his knife to go after the wild-boar! When times turn bad, managers live first. Entrepreneurs will find ways to turn the business around. You can find the other leadership attributes highlighted by Sun Zi in Jack’s speech as shown on the map.
  4. Good News or Bad News? It all depends on You!
    If the economists forecast is bad, it may seem like bad news. But the good news is that it applies to everyone, including your competitors. Hence, another key principle of Sun Zi is about conversion. Choose the right combination of time, situations, people, methods such that you see the opportunities in the bad news, where also you convert the harms to benefits so that you can be successful while others fail. Similarly,  when things are going well, you need the potential dangers, the current wastes, the possible redundancies in the future and take action now.
  5. TOWS, not SWOT.
    The Art of War is about cool and calm evidence base decision making based on facts and calculations. Warfare cannot be left to chance or by prayers. Threats must be addressed before opportunities. Jack Ma advised this in point 5 above.
Your Turns:
What are lessons can you pick up from Jack’s speech. What one or two things that impressed you that you may want to take action now to benefit your business?

Lim Liat (c) 22 Feb 2017

For more on Sun Zi, see Sun Zi and Other Strategists

Maximizing Your Persuasive Power

Gui Gu Zi’s Strategic Persuasion is about developing strategies and persuasion to complement each other for winning together. The strategies and tactics for maximizing your persuasive power are covered comprehensively in this Chapter 9.  The key principles are covered first and the English translations of the original text are given in mind-map forms subsequently. By studying the translations, you may be able to come out with additional principles and tips to increase your persuasive power. Hope you can share with us too.

The Overview and Key Points
The following mind-map captures the principles and key points for maximizing your persuasion. it begins by pointing out that persuasion is not just about us but more about the listener. Why should they listen to us? We must earn the rights to be heard. Please go through the map below and see if can follow them to improve your persuasive power.



Want to go further to discover for your own?
I may not have discovered all the wisdom of Gui Gu Zi and so I present my translations of his original text below for your own study and learning, please remember to share with us your additional discovery.

1 Persuasion – Earn the rights to speak

2 Knowing the Speaker

3 Listen by Watch but Speak Not

4 Use Others Strengths

5 Five Emotions and Speech
Be aware of the listeners’ emotion. A person that is angry is not going to listen to anything. Need to calm them first and help them into the right emotion and mental state to listen and support what you are proposing.


6 Speak accordingly to the Types of Your Audience

7 Purpose & Qualities of Speech
A final checklist to reflect on what you want to say. Are you addressing your audience rightly? Do you have any worthy things to share with the wise or new things to teach those that know not? How are you saying it and the words you use, do they create surprises and curiosity? As an example, “The differences between male and female” is not as attractive as “Man are from Mars and Women from Venus”.

Lim Liat (c) 15 Sep 2016

Leadership is as Simple as 123 according to CEO Handbook

Sima Guang, a famous Chinese Historian and a former Primer of the Zong Dynasty, gave as two sets of three key principles, one on personal development and the other on running successful organization. This wisdom is distilled from the study of the rise and fall of nations and leaders in China from 403 BC to 959AD. It was written as a guide for the King to rule the country well.

The famous history book written by Sima Guang is The Zizhi Tongjian 资治通鉴, literally in English is, “Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance“, or in my translation, “The CEO Handbook”, since it was writtent as lessons for the rulers. It is published in 1084, in the form of a chronicle. In 1065 CE, Emperor Yingzong of Song ordered Sima Guang (1019–1086) to lead with other scholars for the compilation of a universal history of China. The task took 19 years to be completed. It records Chinese history from 403 BCE to 959 CE, covering 16 dynasties and spanning across almost 1,400 years, and contains 294 volumes and about 3 million Chinese characters. Sima Guang gave his evaluation for the reasons for success or failures throughout the chronicles. Most kings through the Chinese dynasties had recommend the study of the book. Even Chairman Mao of China has recommended it as well.

Sima Guang listed 3 key qualities for being a leader and another 3 principles for ruling the country. Here is the mind-map that explains what these mean:

Character Development:

Character Development has 3 key qualities:

  1. Benevolence,
  2. Discernment &
  3. Decisiveness/Forcefulness.
  • Benevolence is not raising children with indulgence. It is improving the politics, promoting education, raising all things, caring for people. This is the meaning of benevolence of a People’s King.
  • Discernment is not critical and extensive fault finding. It is about knowing righteousness, understanding of security and danger, discernment of wise and fool, differentiating right and wrong.
  • Decisiveness is not ruthlessness and brutality. It is deciding and sticking, without any doubt, to the principle(Dao) such that it cannot be tempted by evil, changed by flattery.
Hence,
  • Benevolence without discernment is like having fertile field and yet not ploughing them.
  • Discernment without decisiveness is like seeing the weeds among the wheats and yet not removing them.
  • Dicisiveness without love is like only wanting to harvest(cutting out)  without planting.
  • Having all three leads to a strong nation. Less one leads to decline. Less two leads to danger. Less three leads to death.
  • Since the beginning of man, there is nothing before nor has changed.
  • Quotes
    • 得财失行,吾所不取。——《资治通鉴•陈纪》
      Gain wealth to loose one conduct is not want I choose.
    • 能择善者而从之,美自归己。——《资治通鉴•宋纪》。
      Choose to follow and do the good and kind things will bring beauty back to self.
    • 仁者不以盛衰改节,义者不以存亡易心。——《资治通鉴•魏志》。
      The kind does not change with riches or poverty,
      The righteous does not change for life or death.

Managing the Country – The Three Principles


Governing has 3 Principles:
1. Assignment
2. Rewards
3. Punishment

  1. Assignment: Matching People to Job ie 知人善任 Know People & Assign Them Rightly
    1. The abilities of people differs. Different jobs have their specialization.
    2. During the ancient times of Yao and Xun, the capable people stayed in their specialty and changed not.
    3. If assign them here and there, change their jobs, then cannot reach excellence.
    4. Hence, leader with integrity can gain the best of the world and deploy them according to their strengths.
    5. Assess capabilities then Assign
  2. Rewards for Performance
    1. Heavily rewards those with accomplishments。
    2. Those that did well, rapidly reward them and don’t change their job.
  3. Punish in time. Severely punish those with wrong doings.
    1. This is like controlling the horses of a wagon, direction & speed.
    2. Demote or replace the under performers by able ones.
    3. Those with faults then punish or kill without mercy.
    4. If goodness is not rewarded and evil is not punished, the good ones will be lazy and the evil ones diligent.
Putting Things in Context:
Running a business or governing a country takes more than just leadership qualities and management skills. One must watch and make sense of the external environments, the non-controllable, the influence-able and controllable factors in the them. Sun Zi’s Art of War gives a more comprehensive framework for understanding, adapting and exploiting the external environment. But basically, life is about changes and good life is about knowing how to adapt and make good use of the changes. The best on this is the Book of Change, the root of all Chinese Philosophies, including Art of War. Here is a mind-map that put the study of Sinology in proper context:

In the above mind-map, we can see that “The CEO Handbook” is just part of a larger framework, covering only the ‘People’ factor. There are other factors listed by the Art of War. On the left side, we see the origin of Chinese Philosophies, the Book of Change, also known as I-Ching.
Please see:
Lim Liat (c) 21 Jan 2015

Who has the Best Mission statement?

A mission statement must be inspiring to begin with. It should be shown and not just tell. It is best internalized and entrenched. It is shown in the products and services offered. Hence, customers can tell you what your real mission is, Apple is one that achieve the highest standard in inspiration and showing of their mission. We can also learn mucth from the Apple’s mission too,

Inspiring.
A mission statement is about the purpose of your existence. It is your identity and the value that you provide to a particular group of people. It gives meaning. It should be inspiring. It differs from Vision statements. Mission is about why whereas Vision is about what at some future point in time. Vision explains what your mission looks like to internal and external people. Values are your key believes that shape your decisions and behaviors; those important qualities and moral standards that define who your are. Getting back to mission, a mission statement must also be inspiring.

Recently, Li Ka Shing, Asian richest man, was reported in ZaoBao of 8 Oct 2014 (Chinese Newspaper in Singapore) that he liked a particular quote in the book “Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The quote is:

  • If you want to build a ship, don’t just drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead inspire them to yearn to set sail for the endless sea.
He further said that if the society can be inspired to set sail for sea, then an Asian Silicon Valley will appear. Hence, we can see the importance of the inspiration in a mission statement. It is of course very sad to see most companies, even the large listed companies, have mission statements that are vanilla statements of what they do. They are just making a living rather than impacting the world.

In Sun Zi’s Art of War, the first of the five factors for winning war is 道 Dao, the mission and values of the people. Sun Zi explained Dao as the one that unite the top and the bottom so that they can bravely live or die together. Unity is one of the 5 keys for winning that he emphasized again in the later chapters of his book.

Show, Don’t just tell.
If you try to look for Apple’s mission statement, you will not be able to find it even in their website or their publicatioins. However, I believe, Apple’s Mission is personalized and personified in Steve Jobs. “Making a dent in the universe” is one of his famous quote. He had over the years, created the unique Apple culture that reflected its mission. Steve Jobs believed in showing rather telling. This is in fact a great teaching of Lao Zi. In Dao De Jing chapter, we find the following statement:

  • 是 以 圣 人 处 无 为 之 事  行 不 言 之 教.
    Therefore, the saints do things that violate not the nature order. They are to teach without words (i.e.  teach by examples. The exhortation is not about not to teach, but to teach rightly, by being the model for others to follow). This teaching without words is repeated in Chapter 43.
The mission is not taught but caught and is shown in the way the staff work and in the products and services that they offer.
Nevertheless, Apple did begin with a mission statement, in 1980s, as
  • “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”

But once the mission is internalized, there is no need to state it explicitly.

Internalized and Entrenched – The Culture
Mission statement must be implemented in the company policies, procedures, practices and systems. Also in the building design, office layout, retail space deco, the vehicles and everything else. It takes time and effort for the staff to internalize the mission and for the mission to be entrenched in all the practices. In the long run, it creates the unique culture that give its the competitive strengths. Technologies can be bought, practices can be copied, but culture cannot be easily copied.

Customers tell you your real mission.
The mission best shown in the products and services that the company offer to its customers. Customers are the ones to tell you accurately and truly about your mission.

What is the Apple mission statement? What words come to your mind when you think about Apple?
Simplicity, Elegance, Beauty, Wow, Eaes of Use, Fashionabe, Stylist and Classy, even Sexy. You are right. Those are the key ingredients of Apple’s mission. The true mission of a company is in its Brand. Brand is not what you claim but what customers say about you from their experience with you over a long period of time. In short

  • Your true mission is not what you say but what customers say!

My mindmap of Apple’s Mission:
Apple’s mission can be found, indirectly, in Youtube videos on “Apple – Design by Apple – Intention” and “Apple Ad – Our Signature”. Apple called their mission statement, intention and signature. Indeed, your signature is your identity which is also your mission.

Notice that the value that customers appreciate is in how they feel about your products and services. It is all about creating a wow experience that get the customers to ask for more!

Lim Liat (c) 8 Oct 14