By Krissi Danielsson, Producer, ebizQ
Business can feel like a war sometimes, so it's no surprise that the ancient classic
treatise "The Art of War," by Sun Tzu, has relevance to the corporate
"Let's look at what the business environment is about. It's about competition,"
Richard Platt, Intel's former corporate innovation program manager and senior
instructor for innovation methods, said during a recent ebizQ podcast.
"Warfare is really the ultimate competition."
Warfare, like business, has guidelines and rules and principles though -- and
business can be Darwinian with survival of the fittest and most adaptable companies.
It's important in using this metaphor, however, to understand that business
warfare is not against customers but about winning hearts and minds and gaining
competitive advantage. It's about market share and influence in the mind of
A researcher named Langdon Morris performed analysis of Fortune 500 and Forbes
100 companies over the past several decades and discovered some interesting
trends. Morris found that between 1979 and 1983 that one third of the Fortune
500 went out of business or fell off the list and that the list had a 6 percent
annual turnover. The Fortune 100 was almost as bad.
If you extrapolate the data, says Platt, and Project it forward, you find an
interesting trend. Authors Richard Foster and Sarah Kaplan have predicted that
only a third of today's major corporations will survive as businesses for the
next 25 years; most will die or be bought out and absorbed.
"The reality is that we're looking at drastically compressed planning
horizons for every company and the need for fast response," he concludes.
The root cause of the dropoff is the adaptability issue, just as the best fighters
tend to survive a war.
So what does this all have to do with the Art of War? Sun Tzu said that the
highest form of competing is to win without fighting. In business, that means
winning customers' hearts and minds and to compete where competitors are not.
One tool for accomplishing the latter is called the Blue Ocean Strategy of seeking
calm waters, which contrasts with the Red Ocean strategy of sailing into bloody
Another tool, to resort to a military analogy, which be the OODA Loop, which
was developed by an Air Force colonel. OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide,
"If we look at this from an agility standpoint, we're really looking at
culture, organizational culture, and a climate of trust that actually encourages
people to actually use their initiative and further the goals of the organization,"
Krissi Danielsson is a podcast producer with ebizQ and contributor to ebizQís SaaSWeek site. She started following the IT market while working as an assistant editor with TechTarget, where she spent four years covering a variety of technology areas, from Web services to enterprise Linux. As a freelance writer, she has also written for sites such as TechSpend, ComputerBits, and the iParenting network. Krissi is the author/co-author of four nonfiction books. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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