SUN TZU: the art of war in the boardroom

SUN TZU: the art of war in the boardroom

Sun Tzu[1] is a text, written well over two thousand years ago, as a philosophy for military strategy and planning. It has since then become the most used text for strategy planning and decision making in all kinds of different areas, not only war planning. Today it is used both in the battlefield and in the boardroom. It is said that when the American generals set up strategies for “Desert Storm” they used Sun Tzu’s writings.[2]

Sun Tzu was a sophisticated and philosophical Chinese general, and even though he originated these strategies, he did not see any glory in fighting; “to win without fighting is best”[3], he said. The message of the text is that one is supposed to have the knowledge and the insight, so that a battle can be won without fighting.

Sun Tzu goes to a great extent hand in hand with Taoism; Taoism has been a moderating force in the different currents of human thought and action throughout Chinese history. “What is perhaps most characteristically Taoist about The Art of War in such a way as to recommend itself to the modern day is the manner in which power is continually tempered by a profound undercurrent of humanism”.[4]

Even though a lot of executives and military in the west have read and used Sun Tzu in various ways, there is no comparison to the importance it had in China. In China and Japan it is practically a necessity for management to know the text. The Chinese people know it, and they have formulated everyday signs from it.[5]

There is another famous strategy text called the “thirty six war list”, which is a list of thirty six war strategies that can also be used when doing business. Examples of these strategies are “hide a sword in a smile” and “let the enemy off to snare him”.[6] The list has been worked out throughout the history of China, all Chinese people know the thirty six points in the text, especially the last which says that “escape is the best strategy”[7]. The art of war has thus provided the Chinese with a strategic mind-set which is unparalleled. They are raised with the notion of “ji”, which is basically Chinese cunning; similar to the Finnish people’s “sisu”, their inner strength. Chinese people have ji, their inner cunningness and list.

“The Art of War is thus a book not only of war but also of peace, above all a tool for understanding the very roots of conflict and resolution”.[8]

 


[1] Cleary, T., The Art of War by Sun Tzu, Shambhala, Boston, 2005

[2] Cleary, T., The Art of War by Sun Tzu, Shambhala, Boston, 2005

[3] Cleary, T., The Art of War by Sun Tzu, Shambhala, Boston, 2005

[4] Cleary, T., The Art of War by Sun Tzu, Shambhala, Boston, 2005

[5] Cleary, T., The Art of War by Sun Tzu, Shambhala, Boston, 2005

[6] Fang, T., Att göra affärer i dagens Kina, SNS Förlag, Stockholm, 2005

[7] Fang, T., Att göra affärer i dagens Kina, SNS Förlag, Stockholm, 2005

[8] Cleary, T., The Art of War by Sun Tzu, Shambhala, Boston, 2005