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Learnings from war

Learnings from war

VietnamThere are numerous books that draw parallels between business and war. Indeed as articulated by Al Ries and Jack Ries, business is ‘Warfare where the enemy is the competition and the customer is the ground to be won.’

Here is a list of ten important learnngs for business from war. This list is not exhaustive and there are always exceptions. However, exceptions are just that.

  1. Big armies beats small armies
  2. Small armies can harass and  resist big armies
  3. Head on attack is high casualty and rarely succeeds
  4. It is much easier to defend a position than attack a position
  5. To succeed, a 3:1 superiority is required at the point of attack
  6. Unoccupied territories are easy to capture
  7. Innovation changes the rules
  8. Strong leadership, organisation and communication skills are always critical
  9. Collaboration, alliances and misinformation are legitimate tactics
  10. ‘No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.’(Clausewitz)

Two and a half thousand years ago, Sun Tzu, a Chinese general wrote ‘The Art of War.’ Two of Sun Tzu’s quotes are:

  • ‘The supreme act of warfare is to subdue the enemy without fighting.’
  • ‘If you know yourself and know your enemy, you need never fear the result of 100 battles.’

In the second quote, Sun Tzu is not saying you can win every battle, merely you will know how best to engage the enemy. The choices, as in business, are to:

  • Compete to win
  • Compete not to lose
  • Withdraw
  • Compete to minimise casualties
  • Compete to maximise casualties for the enemy
  • Wait for reinforcements and or seek an ally

As in war, optimum strategy is a function of competitive position.

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