Competitive Strategies

Competitive War Games


The Art of War

Annotated  excerpts from the ancient Chinese book by Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu and The Art of War  

Know Your Enemy

Think for Your Enemy



The ART of WAR by Sun Tzu: Defining Compettive Positiion

The Five Things You Must Know To Win

You must know five things to win: >>>




Five Elements for Comparing Competitive Position

  1. Philosophy: A competitor with a strong philosophy is a strong competitor. A clear philosophy makes decision-making easier. Understanding your competitor's philosophy allows you to predict them.

  2. Heaven: Trends over time that are beyond your control. You must foresee these changes to adjust to them.

  3. Ground: It is both where you fight and what you fight for. The Ground is the basis of all competition because it is what people are fighting about. Competitors are distinguished by the position they hold on the ground. You can and must chose the ground over which you battle. Your choice of ground is a key aspect of your success.

  4. Leader: The success of the competitive unit depends on five qualities in its leader: bravery, intelligence, strictness, trust in and care about people.

  5. Methods: Methods have five qualities the make them effective: systems, organization, learning, support, and standards.

The Four Skills of an Effective Competitor

The five elements that define a competitive position also create the four skills that define the competitor's interaction with the competitive environment:

  1. Knowing: the ability to get hard information.

  2. Vision: the ability to foresee the future.

  3. Action: the ability to move or stay where we are.

  4. Positioning: the ability to use the Ground to find success.

These skills define your external competence in the competitive world.

The Art of War

Excerpts from the "Art of War", Sun Tzu, app. 500 BC

Planning (more)

  • Warfare is one thing. It is a philosophy of deception.

  • When you are ready, you try to appear incapacitated.

  • When active, you pretend inactivity.

  • When you are close to the enemy, you appear distant.

  • When far away, pretend you are near.

Planning an Attack (more)

  • If you outnumber the enemy ten to one, surround them.

  • If you outnumber them five to one, attack them.

  • If you outnumber them two to one, divide them.

  • If you are equal, then find an advantageous battle ground.

  • If you are fewer, defend against them.

  • If you are much weaker, evade them.

  • Small forces are not powerful. However, large forces cannot catch them.

Weakness and Strength >>>

  • O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; and hence we can hold the enemy's fate in our hands.

  • Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient.  >>>

  • Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots.

  • You may advance and be absolutely irresistible, if you make for the enemy's weak points; you may retire and be safe from pursuit if your movements are more rapid than those of the enemy.

  • You must know the battle ground. You must know the time of battle. You can then travel a thousand of miles and still win the battle.

  • The enemy should not know the battleground. He shouldn't know the time of battle. His left will be unable to support his right. His right will be unable to support his left. His front lines will be unable to support his rear. His rear will be unable to support his front. His support is distant even if it is only ten miles away. What unknown place can be close?

  • Control the balance of forces. The enemy may have many men but they are superfluous. How can they help him to win?

  • Be skilled in attacking give the enemy no idea where to defend. Be skillful in your defense give the enemy no idea of where to attack.

  • Make war without a standard approach. Manage your military position like water. Water takes every shape. If you follow the enemy's shifts and changes, you can always win. We call this shadowing.

  • Fight five different campaigns without a firm rule for victory. Use all four seasons without a consistent position. Your timing must be sudden. A few weeks determine your failure or success.

Armed Conflict

  • Divide your troops to plunder villages. When on open ground, dividing is an advantage.

  • Don't worry about organization: just move.

  • Be the first to find a new route that leads directly to a winning plan.

  • This is how you are successful at armed conflict. >>>


World Intelligence (WQ)

Glossary  >>  War

Eastern vs Western Philosophy

Cultural Intelligence

Bhagavad Gita

Corporate Culture


Strategic Management

Competing Skills

Ten Major Strategic Management Schools

The Tao of Business Success    Think Outside-In

Competitive Strategy

Stand Out from the Competition >> 3 Strategies

Surprise To Win    Competitive Disruption

Competitive War Games

Venture Strategies >> Radical Innovation

Innoball: Preparing to Win >> Examples

Alibaba: 10 Success Lessons from Jack Ma


2,500 Years Old, Still Young

"The Chinese classics were written in a very general universal style.  They were meant to be templates for life experiences templates to be used by anyone, at any time, in any situation.  The written language of China lends itself well to this phenomenon.  Each character, or ideogram, is a multidimensional picture of an idea. Each can be looked at from a number of angles and experienced in a variety of ways.  This mutable quality in the written language somehow triggers responses that feel personal and timely."1

The Sun Tzu's The Art of War' is one of the world's best books on strategy and competition. It was written in app. 500 B.C. and established itself as the leading treatise on confronting and defeating opponents through superior strategy. For over twenty-five hundred years, it helped its readers find competitive advantage using the secrets of Sun Tzu. Its competitive methods work extremely well. 'The Art of War', the first of the military classic, offers a distinct philosophy on how to discover the path to success. This philosophy works in any competitive environment where people find themselves contesting with one another for a specific goal.

It is a work of subtlety and paradox that shows how to succeed effortlessly in rising to life's challenges.  Sun Tzu believed that victory is won long before the confrontation and insisted that a skilled warrior can observe, calculate and outwit the adversary without ever engaging in battle.

"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war,
while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win."

"To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill."

"What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease."

"He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious."

Today, many leading business schools around the world teach their students how to create a competitive advantage by applying the methods of Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu's The Art of War provided a strong basis for the Positioning School of strategic management. This school was the dominant view of strategy formulation in the 1980's.

"The difference between a warrior and an ordinary person is that
the warrior sees everything as a challenge
while an ordinary person sees everything as a blessing or a curse."
~ Carlos Castaneda

Excerpts from "The Art of War"

Going to War

You can fight a war for a long time or you can make your nation strong. You can't do both.

Doing the right things at the start of war is like approaching a woman. Your enemy's men must open the door. After that, you should act like a streaking rabbit. The enemy will be unable to catch you.


Your will find a place where you can win. Don't pass it by.

If the enemy has a strong position, entice him away from it... >>>

Planning an Attack

The best policy is to attack while the enemy is still planning.

The next best is to disrupt alliances.

The next best is to attack the opposing army.

The worst is to attack the enemy's cities.

Weakness and Strength

When you form your strategy, know the strengths and weaknesses of your plan.

When you execute, know how to manage both action and inaction.

When you take a position, know the deadly and the winning grounds.

When you battle, know when you have too many of too few men.


Do not trust that the enemy isn't coming. Trust on your readiness to meet him.

Do not trust that the enemy won't attack. Rely only on your ability to pick a place that the enemy can't attack.

You can deter your potential enemy by using his weaknesses against him.

You can keep your enemy's army busy by giving it work to do.

You can rush your enemy by offering him an advantageous position.

Field Position

Know your enemy and know yourself your victory will be painless.

Know the weather and the field your victory will be complete.

Be the first to seize intersecting ground, that is ground which lies the intersections of borders or intersections of main thoroughfares of commerce and travel. Your occupation of it gives you access to all who border it and all who would covet it. On intersecting ground, if you establish alliances you are safe, if you lose alliances you are in peril.

You don't know the local mountains, forests, hills and marshes? Then you cannot march the army. You don't have local guides? You won't get any of the benefits of the terrain.

We cannot enter into informed alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors and the plans of our adversaries. When entering enemy territory, in order to lead your army, you must know the face of the country its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps. Without local guides, you are unable to turn to your account the natural advantages to be obtained from the land. Without local guides, your enemy employs the land as a weapon against you.

The relative size of your force as against that of your adversary is by itself of no consequence. What controls is the relative size of your force at the point where you join in battle. You can strike with the few and be many if you strike your adversary in his gaps. Seek out places where the defense is not strict, the place not tightly guarded, the generals weak, the troops disorderly, the supplies are scarce and the forces are isolated.

Armed Conflict

Seeking armed conflict can be disastrous. Because of this, a detour can be the shortest path. Because of this, problems can become opportunities. Use an indirect route as your highway. Use the search for advantage to guide you. You must know the detour that most directly accomplishes your plan.

Do not let any of your potential enemies know of what you are planning.

Still, you must not hesitate to form alliances.

You must know the lay of the land. You must know where the obstructions are. You must know where the marshes are. If you don't, you cannot move the army.

So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.

You must use local guides. If you don't, you can't take advantage of the terrain.

You make war using a deceptive position. If you use deception, then you can move. Using deception, you can upset the enemy and change the situation.

You must move as quickly as the wind.

You must rise like the forest.

You must invade and plunder like fire.

You must stay as motionless as a mountain.

You must be as mysterious as the fog.

You must strike like sounding thunder.


What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.


The value of time, that is of being a little ahead of your opponent, often provides greater advantage than superior numbers or greater resources.

The essential factor of military success is speed, that is taking advantage of others' unpreparedness or lack of foresight, their failure to catch up, going by routes they do not expect, attacking where they are not on guard. This you cannot accomplish with hesitation.

Taking Action

Thus, though I have heard of successful military operations that were clumsy but swift, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.



 Today's Success Story  Gary Gagliardy

Gary Gagliardy, America's leading authority on using Sun Tzu's methods in modern competition, writes: "Before I discovered The Art of War, I tried starting two businesses. The first consumed money for almost two years before we closed it down. The second fell apart and was sold within a year. After I started studying and using Sun Tzu's methods, the next business that I started went on to become one of the Inc. 500 fastest growing privately owned businesses in America."


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1. "The Art of Strategy: A New Translation of Sun Tzu's Classic, The Art of War", R.L.Wing (Translator)

2. "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing", Al Ries & Jack Trout.

3. "The Art of War by Sun Tzu", Sun Tzu, Lionel Giles