Know Thy Enemy

August 26th, 2009

Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.
–Sun Tzu

War is nothing but a duel on an extensive scale.
– Carl von Clausewitz

It has been fashionable especially in the past decade to use military metaphors to describe business situations. Students of Sun Tzu or Clausewitz (famous Chinese and Prussian military theorists) have taken their philosophies and derived business principles from them, teaching us how to crush our competitor, to “render him incapable of further resistance.” (Clausewitz)

I think Sun Tzu and Clausewitz got it right. But I think those well-intentioned folks who write the business books got it wrong— they haven’t figured out who is the real enemy.

The warfare metaphor assumes a limited supply of scarce resources for which we must compete. Only one side can win. Steven Covey calls this a “scarcity mentality.”

An “abundance mentality” leads people to solutions that provide more for everyone. In business, the term “co-opetition” (first coined in 1913 by the Sealshipt Oyster System) describes this idea of cooperative competition, or cooperating with competitors for mutual advantage.

With an abundance mentality, my competitor (whom I can admire, respect, and serve) is not my enemy. There are enough resources to meet everyone’s needs.

Paul of Tarsus writes in chapter 6 of the Epistle to the Ephesians about the spiritual perspective on the battles we engage in every day, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…”

The real enemy is poor character. If we want to ruthlessly crush something, how about attending to those aspects of our character that prevent us from selflessly serving those around us?

Laziness. Complacency. Entitlement. Selfishness. What would happen if we were able to consistently overcome those enemies?

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One Response to “Know Thy Enemy”

  1. I like this train of thought. I’m of the opinion that humanity is hard-wired to agree, regardless of whether we’ve allowed cultural biases to poison us. A contemporary example of this groaning for peaceful coexistence is Rodney King’s entreating that we all “just get along.” Sadly, the world works hard to teach us to hate each other, to fear each other, and to withhold blessings from each other.

    The real sadness of this is the fact that, in order for the trend to change, everyone will have to surrender their prejudices almost at the same time. A cultural “cease fire,” if you will, where both (rather, ALL) sides mutually agree that they have been wrong and have contributed to the universal pain we’ve all felt. The chances of this happening are so minute, though.

    If only a hero would rise among to be the catalyst! (Ok… sorry for the cheesy finish)

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