Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, November 16, 2007

Grand Strategy

A friend sent me this. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to his blog, The Collaborative Vew.

What this concerns is an interview that appeared at “Sonshi” is the Japanese pronounciation of “Sun Tzu.” The website is dedicated to Sun Tzu, and his classic, The Art of War.

On this website is an interview with Robert Greene. Greene, together with Joost Elfers, have produced three outstanding books on Strategy. They are not only well written, they are among the most beautifully produced books that I own. What I especially like about these books are their inclusion of counter examples of strategies, and stories which illustrate various strategies. Among the most engaging stories are of colorful scam artists from the past. One of my favorites was the story of a man selling the Effiel Tower in Paris.

Here are URLs for the books on Amazon:

The 48 Laws of Power

The Art of Seduction

The 33 Strategies of War

Below is an excerpt from the interview with Robert Greene. He speaks of “tactical hell”, strategy, and grand strategy. In Daoist thinking, these correspond with Earth, Man, and Heaven respectively. Good food for thought. One of the most outstanding concepts you wrote about in "33 Strategies" was number 15, "Control the Dynamic," a strategy that does not have a reversal. Central to Sun Tzu's Art of War is always being active and taking a proactive stance: from planning ahead in the temple to initiating the time and place of battle. In your opinion, of the 33 strategies, which one do you think applies most often in people's lives?

Greene: It depends on your circumstances. It's all relative. If you are dealing with stressful situations, chapter three on maintaining your presence of mind would be particularly helpful, as would chapter 4 if you find it hard to motivate yourself. Chapters 5 and 6 are particularly relevant to leaders of any group. I make the point that structure is strategy—how you organize your group will determine its mobility, efficiency, morale, etc. Chapter 8 is very important—it is about operating with economy, finding the perfect level between your means and your ends. The center of gravity chapter is critical for attacking any problem. But I suppose if I had to elevate one chapter above the others, it is the longest one in the book—chapter 12, on Grand Strategy. This to me is the apex of strategic thought—the ability to think in terms of a campaign, not battles. This has great relevance to daily life.

I make the point that most of us live in what I call tactical hell. We are constantly reacting to what others give us, managing the battles that confront us day in and day out. We rarely get control. Our minds become dominated by tactical thinking. We can only focus on details. We argue and nitpick about this battle or that battle. It is hell .

Strategy is a kind of mental ladder you climb to get above these battles, gain some perspective and plot your moves. It is a mental purgatory. Grand strategy is simply this idea taken further— gaining a perspective that encompasses months or years. It is incredibly liberating and powerful when you have clear idea of where you want to be in five years, or can focus on what you see as your destiny in life. It helps you manage your daily decisions . "It is not important I fight this battle because it does not serve my overall goals." On and on.

Grand strategy is heaven, one we rarely reach, but must always aim for. It is the ultimate form of rationality. The word is misused nowadays, and I try to correct this in the chapter. I wish everyone would read it. And it is my modest homage to the spirit of Sun-tzu.


Billy Jack said...

Thanks for the leads! I just ordered all three books from my library.

Rick Matz said...

They're very enjoyable reads. Let me know how you liked them.

Compass360 Consulting Group said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Compass360 Consulting Group said...

Recommend Robert Greene books for newbie strategists. All three books are good.