Art of Strategy
This website is dedicated to the study of the Art of Strategy. Most business schools tend to focus on the science aspects of strategy. Game theory helps in making optimal decisions but does not by itself suggest novel strategies. Science of Strategy involves systematically analysing the internal and external environment to come up with winning strategies. The focus is often on logical and empirical data or systems that are by and large linear or deterministic. Art of Strategy, on the other hand, focuses on the human on the human in the loop.
Art of strategy refers to novel winning strategies that are often the creation of the human mind. The human brain is an amazing organ. It has the unique ability to mix up seemingly unrelated thoughts and coming up with completely novel ideas. It is the human mind that is also most vulnerable to ego, greed, lust, fear and love. The novel ideas are often disruptive and have a tendency to surprise competitors. They are developed through deep thinking and are reflective in nature. Sun Tzu’s adage of winning without fighting battles involves defeating the mind of the opponent.
It is not surprising that Machiavelli identified fear as a more effective way of controlling human behavior. Generally, a human being’s instinctive response to fear is self-preservation.
“Love endures by a bond which men, being scoundrels, may break whenever it serves their advantage to do so; but fear is supported by the dread of pain, which is ever-present.”
Machiavelli argued that for princes or political leaders to remain in power, they need to be ruthless enough to be feared and kind enough to not be hated. Both ruthlessness and kindness should be viewed as a means to an end and not in terms of their intrinsic moral values. The application must always be based on benefitting the state and staying in power. He advocated for political leaders to maintain the goodwill of the people and avoid being hated, to undertake great projects that will enhance their reputation, and to choose wise advisors while avoiding flatterers.
Fear as a state of the mind could, therefore, be exploited to defeat the opponent’s leadership. Indeed such strategies are often used by terrorists and potentially by certain anti-terrorist agencies.
The exceptions are when a special bond is developed, for example, between a mother and her child or between buddies who have developed a high level of mutual trust and respect. Such special bonds themselves are vulnerable to exploitation. Even the bravest soldier can be sway by the threat of harm to their family members or children. On the other hand, one should never underestimate the bond of family, beliefs, or the camaraderie between leaders and followers. Human beings are capable of giving their lives for their family, religion or country.
One of the possible tools of the Art of Strategy is to exploit these basic characteristics of human nature. The ability to factor in what will influence the decisions of your competitors and customers can provide your organization with a significant advantage.
Perception and Reality
A typical human mind triangulates information and that is the very basis of how intelligence is collated. Several sources are used to validate the information for reliability. What is needed is a sophisticated (deception) and credible plan that understands the opponents’ intelligence gathering system and then to feed it the relevant information towards their expected outcome. If the plan can create a perception that defeat is inevitable or the losses are going to be overwhelming it is likely that the opponent will seek a compromise.
More details on the Art of Strategy will be shared in my upcoming book titled ‘Science and Art of Strategy’, the outline of which can be found at this link. You can also sign up below for the notice of the release date of my book.