The Art of War – Sun Tzu

artofwar The Art of War   Sun TzuAs part of my professional growth and training, I spend quite a bit of free time reading books on various subjects. These days I’m particularly attracted by the business shelf. I get technical growth directly on web article and conference (online and live test conference. More on this in a future post) but nothing replace (other than experience) a good book in the business area. I’m part of the personal MBA community which offers an interesting concept. I can’t say that I’m a very active member but I do pick up some good book recommendations on their website.

I’m particularly interested in business biography these days: just finished one about Jack Welsh (former GE CEO), one about Lou Gertsner (former IBM CEO) and I’m looking forward reading one about Richard Branson (current Virgin CEO).

I’m also very interested in the business fundamentals and in my opinion, The Art of War from Sun Tzu falls into any business library. Yes, it focuses primarily on warfare and it’s been a reference for the past two and a half thousand years but a lot of it is relevant to a business and corporate environment. Sun Tzu has influenced all the greatest military leaders, including Napoleon who only failed when he did not follow all the rules set down by Sun Tzu.

The book covers all major aspects of military strategy including planning, taking advantage of different terrain, placement, energy, maneuvering, spying and deception etc. It clearly describes the type of leaders a king should look for to run his conquest, focus extensively on the important of knowing your enemy techniques and plan, explain diplomacy principles and how it was used in 400BC, the importance of weather etc. All these concepts can be easily applied to a business environment where you can see the enemy as the competition, the leaders as your managers at all level of an organization, the terrain as the operational environment etc.

One of the reason the Art of War is so popular is that it is written in an interesting aphoristic style, with full of maxims which can be applied in your everyday business life. It is today the book of choice for leaders such as Marc Benioff (Salesforce.com CEO) and former Chelsea’s coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

It’s definitely a book I recommend reading.

Some of my favorites aphorism from the book:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

“Fighting with a large army under your command is nowise different from fighting with a small one: it is merely a question of instituting signs and signals.”

“Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of enterprise; for the result is waste of time and general stagnation. Hence the saying: The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources.”

 The Art of War   Sun Tzu