In business, we are always seeking guidance and direction. The complex nature of business leads us to look for frameworks and philosophies that will inform our decision-making.
We are often asked during our classes, webinars, and presentations, “How did you apply the art of war in your business?”
We’ll discuss exactly this topic here.
The Origins of Strategy
Modern business strategy has its origins in military strategy. The essence of business is to prevail over your competition to win market share and increase profit. Most business transactions are a zero-sum game where one participant wins, while the other loses.
As an example, let’s imagine you sell toasters. Very few customers want or need two toasters. So, once the sale is made, one seller wins, and everyone else loses.
Carl von Clausewitz was a Prussian general and military theorist. His most famous book, On War, focused on the psychological and political aspects of conflict, rather than traditional military strategy.
“War is a clash between major interests….Rather than comparing it to art we could more accurately compare it to commerce, which is also a conflict of human interests and activities.”
Sun Tzu & The Art of War
Sun Tzu was a Chinese general, strategist, philosopher, and author. He lived around 400 B.C. during a period known as The Age of the Warring States.
His book the Art of War has become a classic of military strategy. It is one of the best-selling business-related books of all time and it is studied by MBA students around the world.
Unfortunately, the combination of arcane language and the challenge of translating military concepts into mercantile concepts makes the Art of War difficult to understand.
This book is an ancient publication — people often ask “What is the best Art of War translation?”
I personally prefer the translation by Lionel Giles Sun Tzu on the Art of War (London: Luzac & Co., 1910).