Good counsel can sometimes be found in unexpected places.
For example, many 20th Century Ameqrican
businessmen found practical guidance in a book written in the 6th
Century BC by a Chinese mercenary.
What Sun Tzu said about military strategy in his Art of War can often be
applied to competition and negotiation in the marketplace.
In particular the old warlord recommended that, instead of
attacking an opponent head on, one should discover his strategy and seek to use
that against him.
An example of this can be found in an even more unlikely
Le May’s novel The Searchers, the
basis of the famous John Ford film of that name which starred John Wayne.
An entrepreneur ought to reflect on this passage...
“‘In poker, in war,’ Amos said, ‘what you want is a simple,
stupid plan. Reason you hear about the old flim-flams so much is that they
always work. Never try no deep, tricky plan. The other feller can’t foller it;
it throws him back on his common sense – which is the last thing you want.’”
Amos Edwards – Ethan in the film – is using the old trick of
covering a grass dummy with a blanket, so it looks like a sleeping man, to lure
some robbers into an ambush.
“Amos declared that what you plan out never helps out any;
more liable to work against you than anything else. What the other fellow had
in mind was the thing you wanted to figure on. It was the way you used his plan that decided which of you got
added to the list of the late lamented.”
In negotiations, you often find yourself trying to work out
the other party’s intentions. Is he bluffing? Or is it a double bluff? Or is it
a very cunning triple bluff? Or is that what he wants you to think?
It is very easy to drive yourself insane thinking in those
terms. Your best bet is to take Amos’ advice – which philosophers know as Ockham’s Razor – and
proceed on the assumption that simple is usually right.