Business and The Art of War

A Brief into The Art of War

The Art of War is a classical reading for military strategists. It is either authored by a general named Sun Tzu (Wu) or a compilation of authors of the period within the Eastern region. The short book outlines foundational strategy for private military operations. The book goes over public and private campaigns. Public campaigns meaning battles, fights, conflicts; (Support for strength) private referring to those campaigns that are not so obvious of an attack (support for weakness) such as funding and organizing internal campaigns that divide, subvert, or otherwise that create destructive interference between communities or institutions.

5 Deliberations

The beginning of the book brings 5 constant points of deliberation being The Moral Law, Heaven, Earth, Commander, and Method/Discipline. Moral Law refers to the unity between leadership and the people. Whether it is between people and their leader (the book shows top priority is for the state or military, no references to other communities, except in general the populace no communities around ideas, religions or politics). The book only makes destinction between the state and “adversaries” no reference to other types of relationships with other communities whether on a regional, national or global level. Heaven refers to the time of day, year and weather conditions. Earth refers to the means of production, as well as dualities of distance, danger and death. Commander refers to the presence of wisdom, Sincerity, Benevolence, Courage and the duality of Reward/Punishment. Method and Discipline refers to expenditure, Marshall of forces, graduation of rank, maintenance of infrastructure and resources. After a brief overview of these considerations it is noted with high importance of the use of deception, opportunism, flexibility and discretion.

This is one of the earliest admissions of a historical occurrence of psychological operations, an arms race, a cold war or a shadow campaign. Fortunately, we can count more historical occurrences of genuine diplomacy rather than the former, but caution and awareness should still be present at all times for such instances. These not so obvious campaigns, actually occur in a range. On the one extremity we identify competition and the use of military force; and the other we have private campaigns designed to break resistance, naturally occurring, economic competition not really leading to use of military forces.

The Business Environment

What is the significance for the larger business environment from this book. Well due to the book having specialty more in the competitive than the cooperative functions between organizations; it only gives good insights to one of the general goals for businesses within the market. Two of the general goals being not only to compete but of equal importance to cooperate at every opportunity effectively. The Business environment is characterized by continuing opportunities for cooperation and competition. Many other concepts are echoed in the text. The use of resources, purchases and acquisitions, campaigns and organization.

“If the campaign is protracted, the resources of the state will not equal the strain.”

The Art of War, Sun Tzu

This quote reminds us to accurately, effectively describe and measure for success. In regards to new products or services, acquisitions, and other company campaigns. Always consider your resources and the outcome of your campaigns. Whether it is a new product, new service, new operation, acquisition or other. What is the outcome, how is it beneficial and when is it worth it? How do we define success and failure for this campaign? How do we measure each?

The Art of War mentions 5 constant points of deliberation being The Moral Law, Heaven, Earth, Commander, Method and Discipline. All businesses are in a sense, at war, for market share. The Moral law in the book relates to unity between the people and the ruler, in business this translates to the sense of community company can refer to efficiency, efficacy of a team, adherence to procedure, compliance with regulations and many other interpretations. The Heavens and Earth reminds us of the factors/sources of productions, operations of season/time, and logistics. The Commander deliberation in a business sense is the organization of management and the structure of the business and it’s shareholders. Method/Discipline in the business environment looks like policies, hierarchies, procedures, compliance, audits and proprietary information.

“dispute the mastery of the empire, and thus, without losing a man, triumph will be complete.”

The Art of War, Sun Tzu

This concept is more difficult to apply to a business environment. The closest concept is that of competition. To compete includes to strive for improvement and development of the frontier knowledge that is quintessential to the product or service. It also applies to new market participants, where barriers of entry vary between industries. Large Technology companies will prove to be more difficult to compete with and require more research and development to approach “mastery” in the industry. When compared to a local specialty restaurant, where 3rd party services are available to more closely match abilities of local market participants. The competition between large market players often progresses development of a market in it’s broader context, between market participants, size, shares, solutions and other definitive information.


Fortunately, The Art of War is no longer significant in the business environment and does not impact the business environment today as much as it did in the industrialization phase of a nation. Most relatable and recent the capitalist economic growth of The British Empire, United States, and China. Although competition mostly plays out in technological development or ownership of proprietary information, opportunities for cooperation are of equal abundance. Operations such as Auditing, Marketing, Customer Relationship Management, market analysis, and stakeholder studies, emphasize Business’ focus on cooperation opportunities more than competitive ones when available. Art of War is is a book that is very useful for Military and political systems.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.