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New Art Of War : Understanding When to Wage War

New Art Of War : Understanding When to Wage War

PARK Jae-Hee

Dec. 11, 2007


Hello, I am Jae-Hee Park on The New Art of War.

Throughout the span of history, wars and conflicts between countries and people have been an inevitable part of life. As a Buddhist monk once observed, “life is like war.” Today, businesses around the world are going to war to succeed in their markets. To win in today’s world, however, people and organizations need more than just bravery. Fortunately, The Art of War still has much to teach us about how to triumph over our opponents.

First, and perhaps most obviously, Sun Tzu counsels us not to engage in a war that you know will end in defeat. Sun Tzu wrote, “He who knows when to fight and when not to fight will win.” A war or a battle cannot be won solely by rage, determination, or hostility. An objective appraisal of yourself and your enemy is the way to bring yourself closer to victory.

This is what Sun Tzu designated as “victory analysis.” If you know you do not have a chance against your enemies, do not wage war. Simply hold back and turn the circumstances to your favor. War is not simply about winning. It is about turning the circumstances to your favor and only waging war to seal your victory. For companies today, lack of objective analysis will cause trouble ahead when making new investments and selecting strategies.

By remembering how many leaders waged futile battles and ruined their organizations, one can see that this simple yet fundamental technique is a basic principle for survival.

Second is timing, location and speed.

The Art of War states that these are three pillars in strategy. “Attack your enemy where he is unprepared, appear where he does not expect you. Move your men at a speed not seen before.” Like Admiral Lee’s famous victories in the 16th century and General McArthur’s Incheon landing during the Korean War, timing and speed make the difference between victory and defeat.

If you move into areas at a speed nobody anticipated, it is more likely you will succeed in business. Those who are most victorious are not the ones who are the strongest. It is actually those who possess strategic thinking and know how to deal with timing, space and speed are the ones in the victorious circle.

Third, take control of parties’ interests.

In most cases, organizations and people are driven by their interests. No matter how noble-minded an organization might appear, there is always some other interest lying underneath their good name. Early on, Sun Tzu knew that self interest is the force that drives almost all actions. Thus, taking initiative is important to becoming a winner. “By holding out advantages to the enemy, one can cause the enemy to approach of his own accord; or, by inflicting damage, one can make it impossible for the enemy to draw near.” In other words, lure your enemies by showing them what they want. If you want your enemies to go, then having them come close to you is harmful. Whether it is a fight or a negotiation, one who controls the initiative holds the key to the outcome. In other words, one who knows precisely about his or her opponent’s interests can manipulate the enemy. This is the key to attaining victory.

Lastly, come together and fight off the enemy. It is no surprise that “two heads are better than one.” When gathered for a common cause, a group can be many times more powerful than an individual.

“An army that is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks will be victorious.” An organization united to a common goal will not fail. While some, like Mencius, believed that in war, topography has more influence than the weather, in fact nothing is more influential than harmony amongst the ranks.

Finally, we end with a passage from the eleventh chapter. “For the men of Wu and the men of Yueh are enemies; yet if they are crossing a river in the same boat and are caught by a storm, they will come to each other's assistance just as the left hand helps the right.” Through cooperation, what may seem impossible may come true. The same is true for modern day businesses. A decision to launch a huge item based on only intuition may leave the investors, employees and the management in peril. Managers should remember that a war should be waged not out of fury but to make certain you will be victorious.

This has been a lecture on The New Art of War by Jae-Hee Park.

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