While The Art of War was written by Sun Tzu during the 6th century B. C. , long before the colonization of the Americas, the onslaught of the Crusades, and before the Persian Wars of around 490 B. C. , it remains relevant to this day. There is also strong evidence that the work inspired Napoleon and was used in the planning of Operation Desert Storm. The Art of War has withstood the sands of time due to its simplistic approach, and its applicability to non-military strategies. The Art of War, interpreted by Gerald, A. Michaelson, as well as other authors, use Sun Tzus timeless strategies and apply them to the modern day corporate world.
The themes in The Art of War seem to run parallel to those in the business world, with the fight to be the leading company seen as the war and the competition seen as the enemy troops. There are several quotes used by Sun Tzu in his book that can be used to motivate managers and other businessmen in order to achieve ultimate success. While interpretations vary somewhat from author to author, the messages of the quotes remain similar. One of the main themes of the book is that force doesnt necessarily have to be taken in order to come out on top.
This is expressed by the quote, Wisdom rather than force can defeat an enemy. Concurring to this belief is author B. H. Liddell Hart in his book Strategy. In the book Hart states, The true aim is not so much to seek battle as to seek a strategic situation so advantageous that if it does not of itself produce the decision, its continuation by battle is sure to achieve this. What they are trying to say is that if you devise a terrific strategy and implement it successfully, you will already be a step ahead of the game when it comes to the actual battle.
This is very true in the corporate world, with the battle being replaced by the competition of the market. In business, great strategy isnt a strategy necessarily implemented to directly fight a competitor, instead it is a strategy that uses opportunities to maximize your position in the market. For example, a company may look at their internal strengths and weaknesses and visually plot them on an IFE matrix. They may then look at the external opportunities and threats of the company and put these factors onto an EFE matrix.
After looking at all of the factors, the company will come up with a SWOT analysis, which analyzes all of these factors and comes up with strategies. If the SWOT analysis demonstrates flawless strategies, there will be no need to go to war with other companies. Instead, the other companies will be forced to play catch up. A popular strategy consistently found with many successful corporations is the deliberate entrance into a low competition market. This makes it easier to avoid a battle. Major Hotel chains such as Hilton and Sheraton would build their hotels in the centers of tourist areas and cities.
Holiday Inn decided to build along well traveled highways on the outskirts of the cities. In the Philippines, Jolibee beat McDonalds to the market so when the golden arch of McDonalds arrived, they were already far behind the leader of the Filipino fast food market, Jolibee. Needless to say, it isnt necessary to go into direct competition with a competitor in order to come out on top. A well thought strategy can be all that it takes. Another thing that Sun Tzu coaches is to make time your ally. Napoleon, who was influenced by Sun Tzu, took this advice.
At the time of Napoleon, troops marched at 70 paces per minute. Napoleon had his troops march at 120 paces, which gave him a tremendous advantage. Something as simple as this may have played a major factor in the success of Napoleon. In the business world, if too much time is taken, the chance of error contributing to failure becomes greater. Sun Tzu says this: If the war is long delayed, the mens weapons will be blunted and their ardor will be dampened. If too much time and energy is wasted, there will be less efficiency.
The faster you do things, the better off you are. If you manage your time well, you will always be one step ahead of your opponent. You will have the luxury of looking back at them while they struggle to get to the point you are already at. Also, if you arrive at a position early, you will use less resources holding the position than others will use trying to reach that position. The defense of a position is always easier than that of taking a position away from the current leader. The longer it takes you to start, the more you will require. Its as simple as that.
Another interpreted quote of Sun Tzu is this: A victorious army wins its victories before seeking battle; an army destined for defeat fights in the hope of winning. This can be applied directly to the business world. As I suggested earlier, entrance into a market with low or no competition maximizes the rate of success. If there is nobody to compete against in the beginning, you have already won. It is then the responsibility of new companies in the market to work their way up to where you are. Winning the battle before it has started is an excellent way to come out on top.
For example, when automatic washers first were introduced, Proctor & Gamble, the manufacturer of Tide, gave leading producers samples to package in with their machines. Up until that time people still used soap to wash their clothes, so there wasnt competition in the detergent market. This free trial, convinced people to be repeat customers, not because they liked the Tide name, but because it was their first experience with detergent. These people made Tide popular and thats where brand loyalty developed. Now to this day, Tide remains number one while others are fighting for the number two spot.
Tide was on top before the battle even began. Knowing what the opposition is going to do before they do it is a tremendous advantage. Sun Tzu said, Wise generals win because they have foreknowledge. If you know what your competitors strategy is most likely going to be, you will be more effective at developing a counter-strategy. If possible, it is extremely beneficial to find out the tendencies and strategies of competitors. While it may be hard to learn what a company may do in the future, it is always a good idea to plan ahead. Being taken by surprise can be detrimental to the success of a company.
Knowing whats coming allows for better planning and more efficient allocation of resources and time. Lastly, Sun Tzu tells us that, A weak force will eventually fall captive to a stronger one if it simply holds ground and conducts a desperate defense. This may be the most basic of the ideas stated by Sun Tzu. It is very true however. If a company doesnt have real superiority, they just cant win. If a company just stays stagnant without going on the offensive, they will eventually be overtaken by a stronger company who isnt sitting there waiting for opportunity to happen.
To be successful a company cant try to be an equal match. Instead, they must seek something that will make an unequal match in there favor. They would have to find their niche. Every company cant be superior at everything, so to be successful a company must find something that is their specialty and use their strengths to their advantage. These beliefs of Sun Tzu were fundamentals of the Eastern Military world. As time passed, beliefs and religions have come and gone, wars have been fought, and civilizations have collapsed.
However, the ideas of Sun Tzu have stood up to time and continue to be used as motivation in applications not originally intended by Sun Tzu. In his pre-capitalistic world, he had no idea that we would be using his philosophies to maximize the success of business, especially that of the western world, which he most likely didnt even know existed. These simple ideas, if followed carefully, can be the difference between success and bankruptcy of a company, and they were all thought up by a man from China 2,500 years ago.