What business can learn from organized crime and 2500 years old Chinese art of war

sun-tzuThe thought might be provoking; however, organized crimes and Chinese art of war have things in common and might serve as inspiration for modern business strategies in order to cope with today’s hypercompetitive markets.

The idea that business can learn from the unseemly related subjects is intriguing and highly relevant. Sun Tzu and other more modern practitioners of war art have six key principles or key success factors that can be applied directly to entrepreneurship and innovation.


  1. Command – Encourage others to take the lead by clear goals and a powerful vision. Be in the background commanding the strategy. Be the leader and make sure everyone feels your presence, all the way from the front line to the headquarters.
  2. Administration – Prepare the battlefield by securing your logistics and resource allocation. Take inspiration from hackers and other loosely organized groups such as Wikileaks. They regroup to best solve the problem at hand and they do it with the world as their battlefield. Another example is lean start-ups originating from Silicon Valley, organized around ideas like loose networks or cells.
  3. Protection – Protect yourself by organizing in cells. Avoid bureaucracy and instead invest in relations and lead with a strong vision. This is the strategy to best avoid being copied.
  4. Information – Be foreknowing and win the information war. Concretely this could mean gather information on your stakeholders online and share with others. Think Lisbeth Salander from the Millenium trilogy.
  5. Attack – Attack where you have the advantage by avoiding strengths and attacking weaknesses. In business this correlates to Business Intelligence.
  6. Manoeuvre – Move swiftly to overcome resistance. Key words are agility, fast, simple and perhaps most important – innovative.

In Harvard Business review, Marc Goodman lets us know how business can move swiftly and be able to maneuver (on the subject of warfare):

  1. Use new possibilities, new techniques, and be innovative in how you use your competitive advantages. On a day to day basis this means using social media to attract the top talents to your business.
  2. Outsource to specialists. In other words; make sure that the person best fit for the task is the one who gets to solve it. For example, use services such as wordy.com or odesk.com to write, program and design for the web. Other possibilities are open innovation communities, resources from universities or in social media.
  3. Money is not the objective. That should be the mantra of your recruits: overpaid employees often prove to be counterproductive for innovation. Find what really motivates your talents in terms of intrinsic rewards.
  4. Do the long tail. Multiple, small transactions will be more profitable and probably decrease risk.
  5. Cross-border collaboration and consider the benefits of partnerships.

This is a new way of thinking around business strategy and innovation. By focusing on becoming more agile and swift moving, businesses can overcome the gap between market potential and innovations.

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