When I was pursuing my Masters in Industrial Psychology, we had a guest lecture on ‘Lessons in Applied Psychology by Sun Tzu and Chanakya’. Somehow the lessons by Sun Tzu have stuck by. And it’s not only in the field of psychology that the principles of Sun Tzu can be incorporated but also in the area of business and service industry. What makes Sun Tzu’s principles so adaptable in all walks of life is the fact that it’s not the war literally that he is talking about but the conflict which we see in every aspect of our life. He addresses the art of conflict resolution, be it a war or the competitive business scenario.
- So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.
Likewise in business, it is important to know what your competitor's strengths and weaknesses are. Only then you’d be able to attack their weakest link. Avoid striking their strong areas as it would lead to an inevitable defeat. For instance, if your competitor's strength is innovation, you can never succeed if you look for faults in that area. But if their weakness is the quality of the product they provide, that’s your ticket to get an edge over them. With minimum resources, you can manage to maximise your gains using this approach.
- The skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting.
Some battles and wars can be won without fighting. To be a successful leader, it is imperative to know which battles can be won without using up your resources to ensure maximum gain. To win after fighting is not skill; skill is to win without even stepping into the battlefield. Also, it’s not always about one-upping; sometimes to Avoid using a competitive approach all the time. Focus on bettering yourself and your company, and excellence. That’s the biggest strength that you and your company can have so that none of your competitors can dare to compete with you.
- He who exercises no forethought, but makes light of his opponents, risks being captured by them.
This is the same as saying don’t underestimate your competitors. It’s good to be confident but it’s also important to make sure that you know exactly what your competitor is capable of. Don’t take it lightly and don’t underestimate. Always keep it in mind that if you and your company can do something, your competitors can too. It’s essential that you keep an open eye to make sure you aren’t falling for your competitor’s deceptions. Observe your threat, maximise your strength and work around to seek additional resources. Remember, in war, a momentary loss of control is all it takes to be defeated.
- All Warfare is based on deception.
Research and strategic planning are the keys to a successful business. Research on your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, market conditions and your own strengths and weaknesses to use it to your advantage. Deception doesn’t always mean lying and manipulating. In this case, it simply means, know what to share with your competitors. Reveal neither your strengths nor your weaknesses. Keep your plans to yourself and reveal only what is necessary. Strategically plan your next move based on the current situation and dynamics of your competitor and you.
- In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.
Business and war, both, can be quite chaotic. But what matters is to seize this as an opportunity to explore newer areas, to improvise, and to move beyond what is expected. The state of chaos can be viewed as an opportunity to grow. And what matters, in this case, is that you view the situation positively and work towards making the most out of it. And like Sun Tzu said, “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” And chaos is nothing but opportunity in disguise.
So, Art of War has multiple interpretations. It’s on you how you view it and what you make of it. The popularity of the book still remains after hundreds of years as the principles of Sun Tzu are universally relatable and applicable. The beauty of the book is just that; what a man once said centuries ago is still so relevant.
About the Author:
Nidhi Malkan has studied psychology for 7 years with a specialisation in Industrial Psychology. She has conducted various training programs on Soft Skills and Grooming for students across all streams. She is currently working as a Product Manager – Content Strategist at InsideIIM.com. When she’s not working she is reading.