Strategy and Life

I have recently stumbled upon an excellent post by Oliver Emberton recently that stuck with me. It wasn’t just his cute 16 bits cartoons that illustrated his points so succinctly or his use of game theory, his philosophy in life is worth pondering too. While I try not to just summaries his points here, some of his points are worth repeating. I do not consider my self a student of strategy but strategy is about making decisions that that will enable you to gain a advantage and in life you make decisions.

What is strategy? Lawrence Freedman published a history of Strategy in his book, “STRATEGY, a history.” Starting from as ancient as Evolution and Biblical times, he explains the origins of strategy in its basic form of strength and deception, bie and metis in Greek. These two are epitomized by Achilles and Odysseus. Freedman goes on to say how there is a limit to both strength and deception. Strength pits itself against another in a frontal manner, seeking to overthrow through pure superiority in resources. Deception, on the other hand, seeks to undermine the opponent through maneuvers and illusions. Strength is limited by resources and deception is limited by the opponent’s awareness.

However, in his explanation of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, he simplifies the great sage’s deception into “simply a matter of doing the opposite of what was expected.” Freedman goes on to say that deception is limited if both commanders deploys Sun Tzu’s deception and are weary of each other’s tactics. While that was part of the thesis, it oversimplify the issue as a either “have” or “have not”. Strategies employed by Chinese generals who read Sun Tzu have displayed varying understanding of the deceptiveness of tactics and the key to non-defeat is to know the enemy. If the enemy is prepared to counter your deception, sometimes, the most frontal assault will work.