Reflections on The Art of War and The Business of Design

Understanding the Art of Running my business.

I spent a couple of minutes this morning reflecting on the lacking points within my business. After paging through the ancient tome: The Art of War, I realized the strongest point that I could reflect on about my business. I have to (a) know myself. I have to (b) know my client like the back of my hand. That means that I have to know (c) my competitors, their suppliers etc.

If that is done successfully, I can win one hundred of one hundred battles in the attempt to get and maintain business. If, by this process, I spend the time to know myself and not the client, I would win sometimes and lose sometimes. If in this doing, I expend no effort to know myself nor the client, I cannot win and should expect to lose all battles.

Also, my company size which is a micro-business should dictate the way that I market the company. Given that, I must correctly choose the fight, the tactic, the measure, the impact and most importantly, I must be exacting and patient. (Terrain [situation] > Estimation [of forces] > Calculating [# of men] > Weighing [strength] > Victory)*

This means an understanding of the permutations between “Heaven-Earth, offense-defense, advance-retreat, unorthodox-orthodox”, comparative states of readiness, “hunger-satiety, exhausted-rested, ordered-disordered, fearful confident, cold-warm, wet-dry and lax-alert”.

The victorious army first realizes the conditions for victory, then seeks to engage in battle. The vanquished army fights first, and then seeks victory.

To properly focus myself as the general of my life, and of my company: I must do these things in order to show the requisite strength: Have wisdom, knowledge & credibility… I must be strict, benevolent, courageous, skillful in analysis, unconcerned by fame (or fortune). Also, I must be unconcerned by punishment (fiscally or otherwise) place the goals first (army), tranquil, obscure, upright, self-disciplined, command strongly, clever/inventive. And, I must desist from being: unenlightened, not strict, a people lover, unable to fathom the enemy, obsessed wit achieving fame, being easily angered, hasty to act, weak and a poor commander.

“One who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be endangered in a hundred engagements.. One who does not know the enemy but knows himself will sometimes be victorious, sometimes meet with defeat. One who knows neither the enemy nor himself will invariably be defeated in every engagement.”

Partial knowledge comes at a high price: “If I know our troops can attack, but do not know the enemy cannot be attacked, it is only halfway to victory. If I know the enemy can be attacked, but do not realize our troops cannot attack, it is only halfway to victory. … Thus it is said if you know them and know yourself, your victory will not be imperiled. If you know Heaven and Earth, your victory can be complete.”

Make oneself flexible like water in the distribution of power. Namely avoid heavy concentrations of power and seek out weakness. “water configures its flow in accord with the terrain; the army controls its victory in accord with the enemy. Thus the army does not maintain any constant strategic configuration (shih); water has no shape (hsing). One who is able to change and transform in accord with the enemy and wrest victory is termed spiritual.”

On the spirit and ability to command, “ch’i” represents the foundation and basis of courage.

The moral is “shih” the strategic configuration of power: “One who employs strategic power commands men in battle as if he were rolling logs and stones. The nature of wood and stone s to be quiet when stable but to move when on precipitous ground. F If they are square they stop. if round they tend to move. Thus the strategic power of one who excels at employing men in warfare is comparable to rolling round boulders down a thousand fathom mountain. Such is the strategic configuration of power.”

*The Art of War, Sun – Tzu