Musashi strikes again

Miyamoto  Musashi was a Japanese swordsman & samurai who lived approximately 370 years ago (1584-1645).  He wrote a book on strategy called “The Book of Five Rings” (Go Rin No Sho).  One of the more famous quotes from this book is the “From one thing, know ten thousand.”  Musashi believed that concepts could (and should) be applied across many disciplines.  A central discussion in the book exemplifies this as he compares carpentry with swordsmanship. 

With this concept in mind, I think businesses should pay attention to the changes occurring in the strategy of the U.S. military.  In the article, “Pentagon Shifts Its Strategy to Small-Scale Warfare”, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is challenging the traditional theory that we need to be able to fight 2 major wars at the same time.  He believes this is an outdated concept and focuses to heavily on conventional warfare.  He is moving toward a strategy that favors an expanded focus on low-intensity conflict.

What can we leverage from these learnings?  Should businesses be more attentive to danger of continuing to use traditional approaches within dramatically changing environments?  While the fundamental rules of business have not changed, there are significant differences to the environment that we need to be cognizant of.  If your actions are no longer as effective as they once were, what can you do?  I would suggest taking a look at USAF Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop.

If, during your planning process, you do decide to re-align your resources to support a more agile strategy; you may run into some of the same problems Secretary Gates may face:

  • A system built to support the traditional way (read this as many people who like it the way it is & have a vested interested in maintaining the status quo)
  • Unwillingness to confront the possibility that we have been viewing the external environment through an outdated frame of reference
  • Multiple stakeholders with a multitude of “metrics for success”
  • Just like the NFL’s instant replay, there must be incontrovertible evidence to overturn the call on the field (give me 100% assurance it will work before I agree to do it)

These are not the only challenges you may face but they are a start.  The key is to never let the fact that others may not agree prevent you from looking at the facts with a fresh set of eyes and providing logical & candid feedback.  Remember what Einstein said, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”

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Filed under Adaptation, Emergence, Strategy

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