25 December 2013

SunZi's Art of War - The Misquotes and Keys that are missed even by the Experts

A famous book like SunZi's Art of War is likely to be quoted partially. Even so, there are already much wisdom to be gained. But, having the full quotation will lead us to greater success. We look at the famous quote, or misquote, of "知己知彼,百战百胜  know self, know others, win every time”. Yet, the best strategy is to win without a war. Having peace in the world is not about just building more powerful weapons and larger military, but more importantly, it is to build better well being and sharing for more people so that there is no reason for war. That's the heart of Sun Zi.
What has Sun Zi's Art of War to do with Christmas that have me to write about in this season of peace and joy? Much, if you know the heart and purpose of Sun Zi's Art of War. Let begin with the famous quotation, or mis-quotation.

The source of Know-Self-Know-Others can be found in two places in Sun Zi's Art of War book. They are shown below in the mind-map:


There are 3 key errors
  1. Order. 
    • Know our enemy first, and then we can compare ours against the enemy. 
    • Most people look at themselves first to claim their strengths and weaknesses. That is incorrect.  Typical SWOT analysis begins with listing your own strengths and weaknesses. That is an error. We should look at the external Opportunities and Threats first and then back to your strengths and weaknesses to address those opportunities and threats.
    • Furthermore, our strengths or weaknesses can only be determined in comparison with the enemies that we are going to fight with and with respect to the theatre and timing of our operations. 
    • Strengths and weaknesses should be determined from the external. In a business, the external are competitors and customers, the markets, industries, and locations that we operate in. 
  2. Not Win every time but Not Loose every time. 
    • It is a secured position but need another two factors to ensure a win every time. 
  3. The Two More Factors: Know the Heaven & Earth - i.e. The Right Timing and the Right Terrain to take advantage of.
There are Four Factor
  1. Know-Other, 
  2. Know-Self, 
  3. Know-Heaven: the Time & Seasons, 
  4. Know-Earth: the terrains and the positioning. or the market and industries, the PESTEL factors
How do we know others and our strengths or weaknesses. Sun Zi proposed 7 measures. See Sun Zi Art of War-3: Health Check with 7 Measures.

Sun Zi however tells us that knowing something is better than knowing nothing. Knowing self and not knowing other bring us 50% success rate at times. The worst case is, not knowing anything which will result in 100% failure.

We need the two additional factors of knowing Heaven and Earth to ensure completeness.
How to appraise a situation is given in Sun Zi Art of War-4: Appraisal & Prediction.

Even Better is Not to Go to War - How to Win without a Fight .
Another misunderstanding about Sun Zi's Art of War is the purpose. It is not a book that teach us to win every war. It is in fact book that teaches us how we need not go to war! Sun Zi say the best strategy is to win without a fight! Fighting will result in destruction and deaths that both sides will suffer. The better way is to build oneself up such that others will not dare to take us to a war. They surrender voluntarily. Other better strategies will be to defeat their plans before execution, negotiate for win-win for all, and war is only the very last resort. Even if have to, win it quickly without much losses of lives.


See Sun Zi Art of War-5: The Principles for Good Strategies

How to Build a High Performance Organization that others will respect and follow.
The heart then of Sun Zi's Art of War is about building an organization or nation that other will respect and follow rather than trying to dethrone you.
See Sun Zi Art of War-6: Leadership Skills and Creating HPO

Having peace in the world is not about just building more powerful weapons and larger military, but more importantly, it is to build better well being and sharing for more people so that there is no reason for war.

Hope this post encourages you to look deeper into Sun Zi's Art of War.

Lim Liat (c) 25 Dec 2013
Post a Comment