The one-sentence summary
Concentrate on what you are going to do and don’t become obsessed with the competition.
WHAT THE BOOK SAYS
- The ancient wisdom of this 2,500 year-old text is invaluable commentary on such topics as leadership, strategy, organisation, competition and cooperation.
- The ten principles for competitive success are:
- Learn to fight (against the competition)
- Show the way (leadership determines success)
- Do it right (all competitive advantage is based on effective execution)
- Know the facts (to achieve success, you must manage information)
- Expect the worst (do not assume the competition will not attack)
- Seize the day (the most important success factor is speed)
- Burn the bridges (position yourself where there is a danger of failing)
- Do it better (combine expected and unexpected tactics)
- Pull together (organisation, training and communication are the foundations of success)
- Keep them guessing (the best competitive strategies have no form)
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT
- It is interesting to apply the teachings of an ancient war expert to business, and in a modern context.
- The interpretations are clear and easily transferable to business matters
- There are clear sections on planning, competitive strategy, conflict, control, positioning, flexibility and reputation.
- The overall message is: “Do not engage the enemy unless it is absolutely necessary.” In other words, this is as much a book about the avoidance of war.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO WATCH
- If taken the wrong way, the whole business of comparing war with business could lead to overly macho approaches. This is not really what the book is all about.
- There is a lot on using spies for information – this is clearly illegal.
- The book is obsessed with the competition (“the enemy”), whereas many would argue that it is more profitable to concentrate on what you are going to do, not the opposition.