Friday, September 12, 2008

The Modern Warring Game

I attended a course on strategic thinking in the past 2 days. It won't turn me into a strategist but I now know a little more than before.

Strategic thinking has it origin from the military and one would naturally relate the subject to Sun Tze's Art of War,

Sun Tze was a military general in the ancient China more than 2000 years ago. He wrote the Art of War which is a set of military philosophy. It is widely accepted as a masterpiece on strategy and has been referred to by generals and theorists throughout history. The first emperor of China, QinShi Huang, who unified China gave credit to his book. Even Napoleon was said to have studied the Art of War. Today, the theories in his book has become the cornerstone for the modern Chinese management philosophy.

In his philosophy, he believed that it is the general's fault if his soldiers do not understand. However, if his soldiers understand but do not obey, it is the fault of the officers. If translated to the modern context, the CEO of a company ought to ensure that his people understand what needs to be done. If his workers understand but do not comply, the supervisors are to be blamed.

The Art of War deals with winning a war by executing an effective strategy.
Sun Tze said that, 'leader who takes on the role of the commander, without understanding the strategy of warfare, invites defeat.'

I took a quick glimpse at the 13 chapters in the Art of War. I confess that I do not comprehend most of his philosophy but much of it seems like common sense to me. In fact, each time I attempt to read up some management theories, they usually say the same thing but in many different ways. It only goes to show that there are many ways to see the same thing. Not one way is entirely right or wrong. But one or two may appeal to you more than others. The theories just give ideas as to how things can be done right. The real test, however, is in its execution. With experience, the execution can be sharpened.

Up till today, businessmen, politicians and management gurus swear by the strategies in Sun Tze's book to overcome modern hurdles. His philosophy has amazingly lasted for 2400 years. It seems that, to eternity, simple common sense will always prevail.

We learn to strategize because we want to win. The war is defined by us and the enemies can be anyone including ourselves. In this fast pace world today, our war takes a new form and mutates very quickly and we find ourselves re-strategizing time and again. No one strategy works for all the wars and none is relevant forever.

Yes, winning is mandatory but warring is optional. Sun Tze said: 'Seizing the enemy without fighting is the most skillful.' (

I can't agree more.

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