A strategic approach to strategy?
April 7, 2010 11:14 AM   Subscribe

BusinessFilter: What are some classic examples of strategy, other than Sun Tzu's Art of War? The more quotable, the better.

War manuals are the obvious place to look, but is there some classic text about strategic approaches to chess? Sports? Anything else that businesspeople would be able to easily grasp as an analogy for negotiation? I'm mostly looking for soundbites, maxims, epigrams, or brief analogies rather than full texts.
posted by oinopaponton to Work & Money (11 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Clausewitz on War
posted by Comrade_robot at 11:19 AM on April 7, 2010

The Book of Five Rings by Miyamato Musashi was supposed to be popular in Japanese business circles at one point.
posted by Atreides at 11:35 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by MesoFilter at 11:40 AM on April 7, 2010

Machiavelli's The Prince.
posted by mmascolino at 11:47 AM on April 7, 2010

A lot of that stuff is (with due respect to the points the authors were trying to make and due concern to the ravages of translation and time) repeated ad nauseum as motivational poster-style gibberish. Dixit and Nalebuff on game theory tends to be accessible, straightforward, and actuall provide worthwhile evaluation techniques for various situations. If you look at the sole 1-star review for the book (of which I've read only lengthy excerpts selected for inclusion in another course on strategy and economic reasoning), it is full of classic business-style blustery bullshit that doesn't illuminate anything and the jargon that superficial thinkers use as a crutch.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:08 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sorry, sole one star review on Amazon.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:08 PM on April 7, 2010

Antonio Gramsci made a distinction between "war of position" and "war of movement," and argued that these distinctions were as relevant to the spheres of politics and ideology as they were on the battlefield.

In his memoirs, Vo Nguyen Giap refused to make a distinction between military and political objectives and saw them as being equally relevant in a struggle for liberation.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:30 PM on April 7, 2010

I haven't read any of these, but the Amazon reviews are predominantly positive and perhaps you'll find them useful.

Perhaps Gary Kasparov on business lessons from chess? It seems like the sort of book business folk would grok.

I was thinking that many martial arts embrace principles that would make good business maxims, and sure enough, folks are writing about that, too.
posted by richyoung at 12:30 PM on April 7, 2010

The Defence of Duffer's Drift is a classic of military strategy.
posted by skewedoracle at 12:31 PM on April 7, 2010

Dennis Connor's No Excuse to Lose. Here's a good summary.

There's a section of that book where he talks about why people tank in big games/races/events. Years later, I still remember reading it and thinking he'd cracked the mystery of why people choke. It's as applicable to business as it is to sport.
posted by 26.2 at 1:17 PM on April 7, 2010

You should look at Thirty-Six Stratagem. It is much less well known than the Art of War but it can still be very useful.

Here some examples:

Stratagem 1. Deceive the heavens to cross the ocean.

Prepare too much and you lose sight of the big picture; what you see often you do not doubt. Yin (the art of deception) is in Yang (acting in open). Too much Yang (transparency) hides Yin (true ruses).

Stratagem 2. Besiege Wèi to rescue Zhào

When the enemy is too strong to be attacked directly, then attack something he holds dear. Know that he cannot be superior in all things. Somewhere there is a gap in the armour, a weakness that can be attacked instead.

You can find more examples here.

There even books that applied these stratagems to business. But I haven't read the book yet so I don't know if it's any good.
posted by Carius at 7:20 PM on April 7, 2010

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