The ‘Art of War’ of Sun Zi contains 13 chapters. The challenge is to capture the essence and yet without loosing any key details in as short a form as possible. Here is the Formula that tells you all.
I spent many weeks reflecting on how I can express the content of Sun Zi’s Art of War in as short a form as possible and at the same time not loosing any key details. The short form is good for us to remember, recall and to apply it into the many business decisions that we face.
One Chinese Word – 势 Comparative Power
It can be expressed in one Chinese Word – 势 Comparative Power. To be clearer, Sun Zi teaches us about how to 造势 Create or build Comparative Power and then 取势 ride on the wave of the created power.
‘知彼知己’ ‘Know Others(Competitors) and Know Self’.
The ‘how to’ is expressed in the famous quotation of ‘知彼知己’ ‘Knowing Others(Competitors) and Knowing Self’. This is about building our strengths relative to our competitors or in the modern management term of ‘comparative’ or ‘competitive’ advantage. Sun Zi used a bow and arrow to illustrate power and speed of action. The distance the arrow can reached is dependent on much the bow is bent (potential power or energy that we must build) and how fast the trigger, the arrow is released.
‘知天知地‘ Know Heaven (Weather, Season, Timing) and Earth (Terrain, Positioning)
What is frequently omitted is in the second part of ‘知天知地‘ , which is ‘knowing the timing (seasons and wealther) and knowing the terrain (or more precise, the shapes and advantages offered by the terrains such as cliff, narrow passage, water obstacle etc). Sun Zi not only tell us how to build our strength with his five factors of philosophy, timing, terrain, leadership and policies and seven measures which include the strength and skill of staff; he also tell us to make use of, or exploit the potential power from the external environment ot timing and terrains. Making use of the natural tendency offered by Heaven (Timing, Seasons) and Earth (Terrains), will allow us to have power without any of our effort! We just ride the tidal wave. Making use of nayural forces or tendencies is best illustrated with a puzzle. “How do you feed pepper to your cat?”. Hint: The answer is in the natural tendency of the cat.
Out Innovate Them
The last part then is the engagement between us and our competitors. The is for winning is to surprise them or in modern management term, out innovate them! Another way is speed. We can also sieze the initiative by out menuerving the competitors with deception, tempting, threatening, creating chaos, division, angering, waiting while they labor and spend, attacking their weakness etc.
The Tag Line – Build Ride Innovate
The tagline for Art of War is then about build your comparative advantage over them, ride on the natural trends and out innovate them.
One More Thing – Business is a Love Affair more than War
Sun Zi was taking about war. To apply Sun Zi’s wisdom in today business world, we need to know one key thing – Business is a love affair with us customers first with our competitors being used as reference to evaluate our business value that we bring to our customers. The best way to out do our competitors is actually to focus first on serving and developing relationship with our customers. We keep track on our competitors is only for the purpose for serving and increasing our value to our customers. We make use of what our competitors are doing that we may do add even more value to our customers.
The Sun Zi’s Art of War Formula
To capture all the essential teaching of a subject, it is much clearer and simpler to express it as a fomula as shown below:
Hope you can grasp the essential teaching of Sun Zi’s Art of War.
Lim Liat (c) 26 April 2014