A recent and lively discussion with a very successful colleague of mine (and of course it was fuelled by a few bubbles) saw her making the comment that business was war and the battlefield can be a daunting place. She then went on to clarify that much of the language we read in business success books has been largely drawn from sports and war analogies. We have been repeatedly taught the whole win or lose strategy, never that sometimes there exists a grey.
Admittedly in Australia, as laid back larrikins, we do actually take a more relaxed general view to business than the US and Asia, where business is approached as if it was mortal combat. From my experiences in both countries, in China and Japan, business executives treat their business affairs as if they were generals on a battlefield.
The Art of War by general and philosopher Sun Tzu Wu, for a long time was renowned and considered the survival bible for anyone in business. Perhaps the only difference (or is there a difference in reality) is that there are no visible bodies. Although in 2012, we saw many organisations in Australia, large and small having to close, people put out of work and forced redundancies so maybe there are bodies?
Sun Tzu Wu is known for saying in his book, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
If you take a modern view of this statement and make a few word substitutions to this quote, it could be read like this: “If you know your business competition and niche thoroughly and also know your own business capabilities, you need not fear the result of the ups and downs of any business climate, for you will be successful and prosper. If you know your own business capabilities but not your competition or your niche market, you will have success here and there at the price of loss of business share as well as a rocky and tumultuous road to success. If you do not know your competition or your business market, you will fail every time.”
The quote puts old strategy into modern day perspective. Just because your competitors succeed or seem to be doing better than you, does not mean you lose the war. Remember, there is room for both Pepsi and Coke, Ford and Toyota. Business is not about annihilating your competition; it is about adding more value to your customers in creative and innovative ways. War destroys, business builds. Business is as far removed from war as capitalism is from communism, and perhaps these war and sports analogies should be retired to the trash heap or re-thought with a new mind.