Strategy Institute 

Strategy Events

Strategy Shop

Strategy Trainers

Strategy Blog

Affiliate Program

Your Account

Sign Up Here!
Program Value
Free Trial
Program Choices
Warrior Class
Free Membership
Video Lessons
Audio Lessons
Slide Shows
Strategy Tests

“The [Strategy School] training is great—the real deal. Not like the general hype.” Bill Jordan, Bill Jordan Marketing

“Hi, Gary. Thank you—the [Warrior Class] lessons and the course  are fabulous!! I am addicted....Fortunately for me, my job allows me to spend many hours each day online. So what normally takes weeks I can do in days. Most days I spend 4–6 hours studying. I have found already that Sun Tzu and you have changed my way of thinking. Many positive things are coming from this for me, and I envision a brighter future.” Lawrence Healy

“I am going through the Warrior Classes, and as I learn, I find myself getting addicted to Sun Tzu. I never imagined that it would be that powerful!! Mohamed Tohami

“The [Strategy School] lessons are fantastic—in content and the method and format of teaching—TOP NOTCH!” Joshua Logan, Dayton, NV

“I am addicted [to Strategy School on-line training]. I am past the initial 21 lessons and this is as important as oxygen is to the body. I have been spending 2 hours in the evening and 2 hours before bed studying this. I also bought Art of War and Art of Sales. I will be ordering your Golden Keys off the site. I have forwarded your web site to my associates in the industry. I know of 2 who are signing up so far. Great work on this, Gary. I am just getting started and this is a PERFECT fit for our industry.” Kobe Zimmerman, distressed property investor

“This morning I downloaded and watched the first set of videos [from the Strategy School] and I am absolutely amazed. Before X-mas I read Sun Tzu on recommendation from a friend. I knew there was something deep in this but I just could not see how to apply it. I searched the net and found your site. I read your free version and it made a lot more sense but still could not totally grasp it. Today I watched these videos and it is as though Gary has come up to me and said, ‘Hey, you use binoculars this way round!’ WOW! I can now see the whole business environment, and life’s stuff in a totally new perspective! Mike Whitehouse

“I have recently returned to the National Guard and I am preparing for officer candidacy school. I thought I would do a little reading before I got into that environment. I have learned much from the online classes. It was a very nice presentation and easy read. Most of the time I found if I listened to my gut I would have scored better on the tests...very good lessons. I did poorly but I learned a lot and I started without having had any previous reading. It was fun.” SPC Melody MacMurray

“It’s Kelly Stomber from S Florida, again. I wanted to say I am really enjoying the [Warrior Class] lessons and the format; they really get me thinking!” Kelly Stomber

“Just a note to say how grateful I am for your EASY-to-learn version of The Art of War. I had read several books but was never able to really start to grasp the concepts until reading your book and signing up for your warrior class and strategy school. I would still be lost or, worse yet, be using the ideas of The Art of War in the completely wrong way. Thanks again.” James Mirabal

“I have been studying martial arts for 20 years. I hold a 4th-degree black belt in TaeKwonDo. I've studied many books on the various translations of Art of War. Your set is the best as it arms us with the vocabulary of strategy and a way to understand what is happening in a chaotic world around us. It’s daily reading for me now! Any free time I have I spend on your [Strategy School] material. I wish I had come across your books [Golden Key] earlier. One of my goals is (as is articulated in your material) to make my reactions to changing environments fast and accurate.” Ratinder Paul Singh Ahuja, Ph.D., CTO, Reconnex Corp.



Issue 05 June 11, 2008

In this Issue

News Briefs

The Biggest Strategy Journal Ever!
Several of the Institute's initiatives are gathering momentum resulting in an extremely large edition of the Strategy Journal. The first article is completely new material, examining a deeper level of understanding regarding the five elements and how they created and destroy each other. The other seven articles in this issue offers new articles for our Science and Benefits sections, which were introduced in earlier editions of the Strategy Journal. This issue also introduces a new section, call Challenges, which focuses on business research in the same what the our Science section focuses on research into cognition and decision-making.

The Business Challenges of Today
The Council, primarily through the work of Allan Elder, has put together a great deal more research into corporate needs specifically supporting the need for training people on the front-lines in better competitive decision-making. Three of the articles in this issue are based on that research.

Sales Workshop Development
In the last edition, we announced that Allan Elder finished the first version of our 9 Formulas for Business Success Modules. In a parallel effort, Shawn Frost is uploading his version of a new Sales Training Workshop based on the work he is doing with Angelos Brothers. The first part of that workshop is being uploaded to the Council site and he is currently working on the second day of that Workshop. This material will be introduced at the training meeting in September as wall.

Web Site Development
Our site describing the training we offer has been substantially restructured and rewritten in the last couple of weeks. Visit at It now has four major sections, all of which make the case for our unique approach to training. The Challenges section documents the latest research into what executives see as the key challenges in the changing world of business. The Solution section describes our training. The Science section explains the research into cognition that indicates this new type of training is needs. The Benefits section explains who our training improves individual skills and organization processes.

Customer Testimonials

06/09/08 I have been reading some of your books obsessively for about a year now and I decided to take a break from it all for some time.   I just wanted to say that the information I have gathered from your books and blog is awesome! These are truly some of the most important books I have ever read. Michael Aparicio

06/09/08  I picked up "The Art of Sales, The Art of War" and really enjoyed it. I thought the parallelisms were insightful. I then ran across your website while researching for other versions. That book has become my strategic foundation for my sales career. Michael Hendrick

Creation and Destruction of Sun Tzu's Elements

Much of Sun Tzu's system is hidden in the traditions of classical Chinese science. Even those who have studied Sun Tzu's text for year cannot understand his work if they haven't spent some time studying the Classical Chinese systems.  One of these hidden secrets is Sun Tzu patterns for the "creation" and "destruction" of the five key elements that define a competitive position. Even more interesting is the fact that he uses these two patterns to describe the flow of resources and the "reverse" flow of information. 

Though I have used these ideas for years in my writing explaining Sun Tzu, I have never described it directly in any of my writing. It is a little too abstract and "inside Sun Tzu" for casual students and my general explanations and adaptations of strategy.  It probably belongs in the next edition of Amazing Secrets of Sun Tzu, which will probably not come out until next year. This is the first place I have described this aspect of his system.

The Classical Patterns

As you may know, the Classical Chinese five element system is used to classify a wide variety of phenomena. It is also used to explain the dynamics of nature in the "creation" and "destruction" of elements. 

The Five Elements were arranged in a circle to show the "Creation Cycle" as a pentagram.  Water, in the lower left, creates wood by growing trees. Wood creates fire. Fire creates earth by transforming wood to ash. Earth creates metal, which is why metal is mined from the earth. Metal creates water, which was seen by the Chinese are the condensation of water on metal surfaces. 

Using this same arrangement of the Five Elements, there is another way to connect them.  This is the "Destruction Cycle" as a five-pointed star pattern. The "destruction cycle" is also sometimes called the "control" cycle because the actions described are not "destruction" as much as they are "control."  Water destroys or controls fire. Fire destroys or controls metal by melting it. Metal destroys or controls wood by cutting it. Wood destroys or controls earth by displacing it and absorbing it with its roots. Earth destroys or controls water by absorbing or channeling it.

Sun Tzu's Patterns of Creation and Destruction

What is interesting is that Sun Tzu's elements can be arranged in this same circle and connected in the same way to make the creation and destruction patterns.

The creation cycle can be again be  shown as a cycle in a pentagram. In Sun Tzu's system. Methods creates new ground because technology opens entirely new areas for exploration. The internet is an example of this phenomena that I use frequently in presentations. Ground creates climate as each new area develops its own patterns of change. Climate creates mission, as change makes new philosophy and goals possible. Mission creates command, a new philosophies allow the rise of new leaders. Command creates methods as the decision of leaders lead to the creation of new methods.

Using the same position of elements, the "destruction" or "control" cycle appears as the star pattern. But notice that the star reverses all the flows in the original. Methods destroy mission as processes take on a life of their own (which is why Sun Tzu warns us that methods must follow mission). Mission destroys ground as philosophy makes certain areas taboo. Drilling in Anwar is a good example. Ground destroys command because choosing the wrong ground destroys commanders. Napoleon lost at Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington's boyhood home. Command destroys climate by poisoning attitudes and confidence in leadership. Examples are too numerous to mention.

Flows of Resources and Information

These patterns are more useful than simply describing "creation" and "destruction." They are also useful in understanding the flow of resources and information in the competitive environment.

If we think about the creation cycle, we can see that the arrows also indicate the flow of time, energy, and other resources. Through our methods, we invest our resources in developing the ground. The flow of productivity from the ground goes into creating the climate. The flow of energy from changes of climate is channeled into mission. The flow of goals from mission creates the focus of command. The flow of time and energy from the decisions of command go into creating new methods.

If we reverse these flows, we see the pattern of flow of rewards (additional wealth, time, and energy) from successful competition. Reward from the ground are harvested by methods. The rewards from methods enrich command. The success of command strengthens mission. The success of mission improves climate. The improved climate enriches the ground.

This gets really interesting because "destruction cycles" charts the flow or control of information. Information from the environment's ground goes into command decision making. The flow of information leaders goes out into the environment through its effect on climate. The flow of information from changes in the environment get into the organization through methods. The flow of information generated by methods goes into mission as progress is evaluated against goals. The flow of information from mission goes out into the environment through the ground, as others learn of our ideas and motivation.

A more advanced student of Sun Tzu may notice that this five flows of information also match Sun Tzu's five types of spies or, as I prefer to call them, information conduits. Ground information comes to leaders through local conduits. Inside conduits bring information about the plans of leaders into the climate. Surviving conduits bring information from changes the environment into the organization's methods. Double conduits bring information on methods to its goals. Information about goals goes out into the environmental ground through doomed conduits.

So, if we reverse these flow what do we get? We get the patterns of destructive flows of information or mistakes of control. Mission (or ideals) alone cannot dictate methods. Methods cannot change climate. Climate should not change command. Command cannot command ground. Ground cannot change mission. I could offer a lot of examples of these mistakes being made, but I will leave it for readers to figure out the shades of meaning indicated by this pattern.

The Deepest Levels

Sun Tzu's system describes some deeper truth about the abstract nature of competition. While I know little about the utility of the classical Chinese system in describing the natural world, it is simply elegant in the form that Sun Tzu applied it to world of competition.

While we use English words to describe Sun Tzu's elements, the original characters in ancient Chinese were broad concepts. Sun Tzu defined them by their relationships with other elements.  While it is useful to understand the pieces and parts that make up each element in order to understand the concepts, it is just as important to understand their relationships with each other. The yinyang relationships joining ground with climate and command with methods around a core of mission is just the start of these relationship.

The Need: Positioning the Institute

The Institutes current focus is building a simple yet strong sales story for our training. Our goal is to make this story so powerful that it will capture people's imagination and get them to act, bringing our trainers into their organization to training their people in Sun Tzu's science of strategy.

We need an overpowering sales story because the world of employee training is an extremely competitive market. Training departments routinely get 20-40 solicitations for different types of training per day. We cannot break through this crowded market by the normal routes. We want to avoid competing directly with any existing training, but, at the same time, insist that there is a serious need for employee training that other training organizations have missed entirely.

Sun Tzu's method for doing this is by leveraging the changes in the environment. Those changes open up holes in the market. Changes in cognition research is an interesting opening, but more interesting are the changes that executives are feeling. The latest evidence for the type of hole we are looking for comes from surveys of executives and research into the problems and successes of corporate strategy. As we gather more of this research, we realize that many people are coming to the same conclusion.

Our world is changing quickly. Globalization, the information revolution, and shift from production to service are reshaping the worldwide economy. While traditional training addresses the need for better internal processes, the growing need is for better decision making at every level of the organization. Training front-line people in competitive strategy is no longer a luxury but a necessity.

The world is being transformed from a blue-collar world of process users into a white-collar world of decision-makers. Improving processes has reached a point of diminishing returns. What matters now is the quality of the decisions made based on the increased pace of change. This means that the  challenge is creating a more engaged workforce. The trends of the last six years show that this problem is getting more serious over time.

Key executives are clearly aware that their people need to think and act more competitively. However, most are at a loss for ways to actually accomplish this transformation. This failure is seen in terms of executing corporate strategy. In an thorough examination of this execution, the researchers came to the conclusion that:

"Execution is the result of thousands of decisions made every day by employees acting according to the information they have and their own self-interest."

In a separate analysis of the broad range of research on corporate strategy, another group of analysts made the surprising discovery that strategy is increasingly being set on the front lines long before it is officially recognized by headquarters. The difference between success and failure is your people's ability to recognize and leverage new opportunities.

Once you accept that the world is changing, how do you train your workforce to deal with these new realities?

Challenges: Key Issues for Executives

The world is being transformed from a blue-collar world of order-followers into a white-collar world of decision-makers. When the key work was on the assembly line, your workforce just needed to follow instructions. Their decisions were relatively simple. Today, the key issues are in the marketplace dealing with business competition. And the decisions that the workforce must make are much more complex. Most are simply not getting the tools they need.

What the Research Tells Us

A six-year study of the challenges facing today's organizations by the Ken Blanchard Companies® identified the main issues facing executives. This study interviewed over 4,900 executives, line managers, and training and HR leaders from a range of companies, industries, and countries. The people painted the picture of a world  in which people's roles are changing.

These people said that their most pressing needs were to create an more engaged workforce, manage change, and develop potential leaders. The top four challenges they listed were competitive pressures, economic challenges, growth and expansion, and skills shortages. All of these issues revolve around the changing nature of work in the information age.

Competitive pressure directly impacts your front-line people. Since few are trained in competitive decision-making, they waste resources in unnecessary competitive conflict. The shortage of people who can make good decisions inhibits growth and expansion. The expertise most in demand is the ability to make the creative decisions under competitive pressure but historically that skill comes only from years of experience.

The Top Challenges

When asked to rate the top challenges facing their companies, everyone gave answers related to the changing role of the workforce. Twenty-three percent saw this primarily as an economic challenge. Eighteen percent said it was a culture change. Thirteen percent said it was the competitive pressures. Twelve percent said the skill shortage. And twelve percent saw it as a problem with innovation and creativity.

When asked to to choose the top five issues they would focus on, the issues were:

  1. Creating an engaged workforce (58%),
  2. Managing change (55%),
  3. Developing potential leaders (53%)
  4. Selecting and retaining key talent (50%)
  5. Communicating mission, vision, values (39%)

Issues that were once topped this list, such as controlling costs, declined dramatically over the six years of the study, from 58% to 38%. Meanwhile, the top issue, creating an engaged workforce continues to grow steadily in importance over this same period of time. It just keeps getting worse because traditional training doesn't address is. When asked to pick just one issue to focus on, the most popular response was creating an engaged workforce.

Workforce Training Challenges

When it comes to expressing what this transformation of the workplace means in terms of employee trainng, executives found many ways to they express the challenge.

A large majority (78%) see the challenge in terms of "performance management." How do you judge the quality of people's competitive decisions? Managers cannot evaluate each decision without making their people feel that their every decision is second-guessed. This is one of the problems executing strategy. Most managers have no idea how to evaluate people's decision-making skills in a generic way, non-threatening way. 

Nearly as many (74%) also see this as a problem with "management skills" because decision-making has traditionally been a management job, even though developing front-line decision-making skills is different from traditional management training. Interpersonal communication skills (63%), team building skills (59%), customer relationship skills (58%) and the ability to innovate (42%) all part of this picture of training your people to be more effective for the future.

Key executives are clearly aware of the need to engage their people into thinking and acting more competitively. However, most are at a loss for ways to actually do this.  This failure is seen in terms of executing corporate strategy which has been traced directly to the problems with front-line decision-making.

Challenges: Executing Corporate Strategy

In a study of 125,000 people representing more than 1,000 companies, government agencies, and not-for-profits in over 50 countries, researchers found that three out of five companies rated their organizations as weak at strategic execution.

In the article in Harvard Business Review exploring this research, the researches came to the conclusion that:

"Execution is the result of thousands of decisions made every day by employees acting according to the information they have and their own self-interest."

The problem starts with the fact that most people do not know what their right and responsibility to make decisions are. This is largely because the decision-making role of front-line employees has been generally ignored. The contrast between companies that we able to execute versus those who were not, the different was dramatic. In companies strong on execution, 71% of individuals understood that they needed to make decisions. Only  32% of those in organizations weak on execution had the same understanding.

Moving Decisions to the Front Lines

In most companies, the basic thinking was that information had to get to headquarters for certain strategic decision to be made. Though there is a difference between how quickly information gets to headquarters in good and bad companies ( 77% to 45%) the research found that the role of headquarters was in identifying patterns and spreading best practices. This was a coordinating role, not one of decision-making.

The well-know equipment maker, Caterpillar, for example found that the hierarchy no longer made sense in terms of making business decisions. As one field executive expressed it:

“It just took a long time to get decisions going up and down the functional silos, and they really weren’t good business decisions; they were more functional decisions.”

Caterpillar's CEO, Jim Owens,  noted that by the time information got to the top, it had been “whitewashed and varnished several times over along the way.”

The research found that the higher decision were made in the hierarchy, the poorer the quality of the decision was. Pricing issues were a great example. Only the people on the front lines can make pricing decisions based upon local market condition, which different from moment to moment in every market. When pricing decision were made further up in the hierarchy, it had to be made on the basis of cost rather than market.

Researches found that the more decision-making was moved down in the organization, the better the information passed to headquarters became.  They came to the conclusion that:

"Ironically, the way to ensure that the right information flowed to headquarters was to make sure the right decisions were made much further down the organization. By delegating operational responsibility to the people closer to the action, top executives were free to focus on more global strategic issues.:

The Flow of Information

There is no question about where the best information for making decision resides: at the front-lines of the competitive battle. The research found that 61% of individuals in strong-execution organizations agreed that field and line employees have the information they need to understand the bottom-line impact of their decisions. This figure plummets to 28% in weak-execution organizations.

However, there is a question about where this information goes. As the pace of information increases, one key to the success of the enterprise is to move information across internal boundaries. Organization cannot afford to second-guess their front-line decision makers or the flow of information will stop. In companies the poorly executed strategy, 71% of people asked were worried abut their decision being second guessed. The predictable result is that information about decision was kept secret and almost 80% of those in the survey verified that information did not flow in these companies.

However, even in the best companies, there is a problem with information flow. Almost half (45%) of those in companies that were good at execution felt that information flowed freely between the various parts of the organization. At the Institute, we see this as symptomatic of the fact that most organization lack a vocabulary for discussing competitive situations on the front line. One of the benefits of our training is that it gives the entire organization a standard vocabulary and framework for communicating competitive and strategic issues.

If the key to success is moving more and more responsibility for competitive decisions to the front-lines, organization must rethink training. They must give their front-line people the perspective and tools they require to make those decision. This is why another  separate research project came to the fascinating conclusion that the  best corporate strategy is really being created at the front-line not at corporate headquarters at all.

Challenges: Front Lines Create Strategy

Harvard professors Joseph Bower and Clark Gilbert examined a number of studies into corporate strategy and made an interesting discovery: 

'"What we have found in one research study after another is that how business really gets done has little connection to the strategy developed at corporate headquarters.

"Rather, strategy is crafted, step by step, as managers at all levels of a company - be it a small firm or a large multinational - commit resources to policies, programs, people, and facilities.

"Crafting strategy is an iterative, real-time process; commitments must be made, then either revised or stepped up as new realities emerge."
Harvard Business Review, February, 2007

That "iterative, real-time process" is what we teach. We deploy these strategic skills where they matter most—on your organization’s front lines.

The author's go on to tell the story of Intel's strategic exit from the memory market. That decision was made by Andy Grove and Gordon Moore after Intel's revenues from memory had fallen to only 4% of total sales. This means Intel's front-line people had already exited the memory market and the key executives just recognized the reality after the fact.

The question the Harvard professor's ask is, "Who's in control?"  They come to the conclusion that though the CEO's can make decisions about  resource allocation inside the organization, it is the people on the front lines who must make the key competitive decision. Those decisions start with what information to pass up the chain of command.

Innovation and Customers

What is most telling is that the professors define "operating managers" to include salespeople, which means that they are really talking about front-line decision makers rather than traditional managers. Working in the front-line, these operating managers can either "constrain innovation" or "redirect and improve strategy in very innovative ways." 

Training your front-line people only to follow a process constrains innovation. Training them how to safely explore the competitive terrain as well as follow procedures ensures a flow of creative new ideas.

The big discover here is that strategy depends on adapting to the environment. It is the decisions outside of the organization, the decisions of customers, that matter the most. While many organizations talk about "staying close to their customers," the reality is that it is the front-line people who are close to the customers, not people who are further up the hierarchy.

The filter keeping out the bad ideas and letting in the new ideas has to be on the surface of the organization. Good strategy doesn't arise from letting every individual customer to dictate organizational priorities, but trained front-line people can identify the larger opportunities that real individual customers represent.

A Larger Perspective

Our training leverages the wisdom, experience, and good judgment your front-line people have already developed. It simply puts that knowledge into a larger, more powerful context. If your people need more useful perspectives rather than more detailed processes, this is the training they need. If you need to develop expertise on your front lines more quickly to grow, training in strategic decision-making is key.

Our training offers a simple, scalable model for understanding complex, detailed situations. This perspective makes day-to-day decision-making clearer,  easier, and faster. The relevant information is identified more quickly. Potential opportunities and better responses pop out of the background of constant information noise. More importantly, this perspective generates powerful insights  into how progress can be made in difficult situations. It gives your people a leverage point for their creative energy.

To learn what we teach in more detail and why it is invaluable read more about the science of strategy here

The Science: Seeing the Invisible

The "Nazca lines" are  giant drawings etched across thirty miles of desert on Peru’s southern coast. The patterns are only visible at a distance of three hundred or so feet in the air. Below that, they look like strange paths or roads to nowhere. Just as we cannot see these lines without the proper perspective, people who master Sun Tzu's strategic concepts can suddenly recognize situations that were invisible to them before. The most recent scientific research explains why people cannot see these patterns without developing their  decision-making expertise.1

The mental models used by experts give them what experts in cognition call "situation awareness." This situation awareness isn't just vague theory. Recent research shows that it can be measured in a variety of ways.2 We now know that untrained people fall victim to a flow of confusing information because they don't know where its pieces fit. Those trained in strategic cognition plug this stream of information quickly and easily into a bigger picture, transforming the skeleton's provided by Sun Tzu's system into a functioning machine. Each piece of information has a place in that picture. As the information comes in, it fills in the picture, like pieces of a puzzle.

The ability to see a bigger picture allows experts in strategy to see what is invisible to most people in a number of ways. They include:

  • People trained in strategic cognition--recognition-primed decision-making--see patterns that others do not.

  • Trained people can spot anomalies, things that should happen but don't.

  • Trained people are in touch with changes in the environment within appropriate time horizons.

  • Trained people recognize patterns under extreme time pressure.

One of the most surprising discoveries from this research is that those who know procedures alone have a more difficult time recognizing patterns than novices. An interesting study3 examined the different recognitions skills of three groups of people 1) experts,  2) novices, and 3) trainers who taught the standard procedures. The three groups were asked to pick out an expert from a group novices in a series of videos showing them performing a decision-making task, in this case, CPR. Experts were able to recognize the expert 90% of the time. Novices recognized the expert 50% of the time. The shocking fact was that trainers performed much worse that the novices, recognizing the expert only 30% of the time.

Why do those who know procedures well fail to see what the experts usually see and even novices often see? Because, as research into mental simulations has shown, those with only a procedural model fit everything into that model and ignore elements that don't fit. In the above experiment, interviews with the trainers indicated that they assumed that the experts would always follow the procedural model. In real life, experts adapt to situations where unique conditions often trump procedure. Adapting to the situation rather than following set procedures is a central focus Sun Tzu's form of strategic cognition.

People trained to recognize the bigger picture beyond procedures also recognize when expected elements are missing from the picture. This anomalies or, what the cognition experts4 describe as "negative cues" are invisible to novices and to those trained only in procedure. Without sense of the bigger pattern, people are focused too narrowly on the problem at hand. The "dog that didn't bark" from the Sherlock Holmes story, "Silver Blaze," is the most famous example of a negative cue. Only those working from a larger non-procedural framework can expect certain things to happen and notice when they don't.

The ability to see what is missing also comes from the expectations generated by the mental model. Process-oriented models have the expectation of one step following another, but situation-recognition models create their expectations from signals in the environment. Research5 into the time horizons of decision-makers shows that different time scales are at work. People at the highest level of organizations must look a year or two down the road, using strategic models that work in that timeframe, doing strategic planning.  Decision-makes on the front-lines, however, have to react within minutes or even seconds to changes in their situation, working from their strategic reflexes. The biggest danger is that people get so wrapped up in a process that they lose contact with their environment.

Extreme time pressure is what distinguishes front-line decision-making from strategic planners. One of the biggest discoveries in cognitive research6 is that trained people do much better in seeing their situation instantly and making the correct decisions under time pressure. Researchers found virtually no difference between the decisions that experts made under time pressure when comparing them to decisions made without time pressure. That research also finds that those with less experience and training made dramatically worse decisions when they were put under time pressure.

The central argument for training our strategic reflexes is that our situation results, not from chance or luck, but from the instant decisions that that we all make every day. Our position is the sum of these decisions. If we cannot make the right decisions on the spot, when they are needed, our plans usually come to nothing. This is why we describe training people's strategic reflexes as helping them do at first what the average person will do at last.

The success people experience seeing what is invisible to others is dramatic. To learn more about how the strategic reflexes we teach differ from what can be planned, read about the contrast between planning and reflexes here. As our many students report, the success Sun Tzu's system makes possible is remarkable.

1 Chi, Glaser, & Farr, 1988, The Nature of Expertise, Erlbaum
2 Endsley & Garland, Analysis and Measurement of Situation Awareness
3 Klein & Klein, 1981, "Perceptual/Cognitive Analysis of proficient CPR Performance", Midwestern Psychological Association Meeting, Chicago.
4 Dr. David Noble, Evidence Based Research, Inc. In Gary Klein, Sources of Power, 1999
5 Jacobs & Jaques, 1991, "Executive Leadership". In Gal & Mangelsdofs (eds.), Handbook of Military Psychology, Wiley
Calder, Klein, Crandall,1988, "Time Pressure, Skill, and Move Quality in Chess". American Journal of Psychology, 101:481-493

The Benefits: Success in Career

Nothing is more gratifying that getting a message from a customer that starts out:

"Just wanted to tell you how much your books have changed my life."

This particular message came from Ossy Herdandez. Ossy was familiar with Sun Tzu's work before discovering adaptations. His message goes on to say:

"I have in my collection many different translations of Sun Tzu's work on different subjects and comparing them to yours is like 'balancing a silver coin with a gold coin.' No contest. The book that changed all this was your book on career building."

We hear from a lot of people who have found our training in Sun Tzu's methods invaluable in their career. We hear from all types of people at all stages of their career. We hear from kids just starting out and university professors. We hear from doctors, lawyers, and from people just trying to find their way. They have all discovered the same lesson: they make better decisions when they start using Sun Tzu's methods.

For Lorenz Dulfo who was just coming out of school, had the same problems that a lot of young people have adjusting to the workplace. He wrote us:

"I recently got my very first job... I was totally overwhelmed by the totally different environment of the corporate world as opposed to the country club atmosphere of my college days. I was failing, making mistakes at every turn."

Lorenz found us and enrolled on our on-line Warrior Class lessons in decision-making. He found that they made all the difference:

"Now, I am able to enjoy work and life more because slowly I am trying to change the way i think..."

These difference isn't only something that you feel. It is something others notice as well. People are continually surprised by what a difference even a little knowledge of classical strategy makes. Another student of ours, Edward Forgacs, who is still in school while working writes:

"After reading and implementing just a few of Sun Tzu’s suggestions I have already noticed an improvement, and so have my teachers, employer, etc. I did not realize that The Art of War would have such a significant impact on my life. Thank you so much!"

This instant transformation doesn't only affect people at the beginning of their career. Gerald Verno already was already in management when he found our work teaching strategic awareness. He also seemed surprise at how much difference it made:

"I picked up a copy of your book 'The Art of Management' and began applying it to my career. The rewards were instantaneous...It has helped in many situations!!!"

Another fan of our Management Warrior work is Bohdan Chac. He was particular impressed by the techniques it offered for winning without conflict. He now finds it invaluable in helping him deal with the internal politics of his organization He writes: 

"My favorite chapter was 7 'internal politics'. It is amazing how much of my time (well paid) was spent on it [internal politics] and that in reality it was all wasted. ...As you move up the corporate ladder, you are forced to play more and more politics, and for an entrepreneur like myself it is the hardest part cause I feel like its all a wasted time."

That idea is echoed by Amit Gupta, who also had a problem with internal politics. He discovered that he had to change his strategic reflexes in order to avoid them. He writes again about our Management Warrior book:

"I really feel that this book came at the right time. I was kind of trying to find a way to better my position in corporate world. I am not too good a politician and found myself trapped into corporate politics for no good reason. After understanding the difference between planning and strategy, I was able to find out where I was wrong."

As we have heard again and again, no matter how far along you are in your career, mastering Sun Tzu's methods can help you in your career. This is true even if you are already a university science professor at Harvard like Sam Guo. He writes us:

"This is a wonderful book, which tells people of how to succeed in their career. For me it provides tips of how to become a great professor in science."

Nor do you have to be in the business world. Ron Hatfield was a former prosecutor who went into the public sector focusing on public safety and victim programs who felt he had "been at war for the past twenty years." Contrasting his work as a prosecutor with working in the public sector, he writes:

"...I didn't know who the "enemy" was. As a prosecutor, it was pretty easy - the defendant and his/her attorney. However, I wasn't supposed to be at war with my prospective client, but it very often seemed that I was."

Once again, as we hear so often, we were able to help him understand his position for the first time in year almost instantly.

"The first pages of this book really brought into clarity who my enemy was, and it made all the sense in the world!"

Of course, our work isn't just about providing understanding, it is about retraining people's automatic responses to situations. The stories that customers tell us often perfectly illustrate how differently they behave. Dan (who asked us not to use his last name), another student of our Warrior Class Lessons, tells the story about how he was backstabbed by a coworker during a meeting. At first, he felt his old anger, but then something different happened:

"After work I was walking to the car, plotting my revenge, when I came to my senses. My first thought was profit."

He found himself comparing the relative positions of the man who backstabbed him and himself.  He quickly realized that his success in his career had nothing to do with getting into battles with this particular person. He goes on to say:

"Normally I would have lain awake all night thinking about what [he] did and what my response should be, but once I thought about the terrain, our relative positions, and the position I am trying to move into I was completely calm about the whole incident...what he did can only hurt me if I let it distract me from pursuing success on my terms. I really appreciate what I have learned from your books. I wish more people would read them."

Without developing your strategic reflexes, the science tells us that you cannot help but react emotionally. Training yourself to recognize strategic situations  not only improves your career, but it can improve the way the world works.

The Benefits: Success in Understanding

The range of people who find benefits in the our training is amazing. Our methods work whether you have studied Sun Tzu for years or are just discovering his work. They work for experienced professionals and for kids.  You may have studied strategy for years or never thought you needed to use strategy, and you will find what we teach immediately useful.

It is the brilliance of Sun Tzu's brilliant work, and how we teach it. While most translations obscure the meaning of Sun Tzu's original formulas, our work is aimed at helping people understand what cannot be translated.

For example, Kittikorn Nakprasit from the mathematics department at Khon Kaen University in Thailand writes us that he had read many versions of Sun Tzu in both English and Thai and dreamed of understanding its deeper meaning, but that he thought it was "hopeless" because he couldn't read the ancient Chinese. After discovering our work, he wrote us:

"Your book The Art of War plus The Ancient Chinese Revealed and [your] many internet sites now make my dream alive...It is very original and opens my eyes..."

Similarly, those with a great deal of experience in the both Chinese and strategy write us praising our work.

Dick Buxton started studying Mandarin at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA in 1968. He was stationed throughout Asia while he was in the Navy. After getting out, he got his masters in Oriental Studies with a concentration in Chinese history, studying Chinese at the National Taiwan University and working as a China analyst for the intelligence community. He found our books at the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. and wrote to complement us saying:

"Having had my scholastic head in modern China, I never really read the original Chinese version, and only referred to it now and again whenever Mao’s Chinese Revolution came up or I had a need to refer to Mao’s tactics in the countryside prior to 1949. When I saw your book the other day, I just had to pick it up. I’ve been reading it nightly – the Chinese and the English – and it has renewed my interest in studying Chinese again."

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the parents that we hear from who find these ideas so simple that they are teaching them to their kids. For example, Dave Harper writes:

"I found your work especially helpful because it conveys, in readily understood terms, the principles in The Art of War - such as positioning, leverage, etc. One book in particular of yours, the Warrior Class: 306 Lessons in Strategy, is most helpful...Would you believe my eldest children (aged 5,6,8) quiz each other from the Warrior Class?...thank you once again for the excellent work you are doing."

Nor is Dave alone in finding this ideas so easy that children can appreciate them. Ossy Hernadez was one of those people who had collected many versions of Sun Tzu's The Art of War, but who said that he really didn't understand the work until he got our version for career building. He said:

"The intro on that book alone --the 5 element diagram, 4 skills which none of the other books speak of--helped me realize that there was more to The Art of War. My daughter already understands the 4 basic skills that are needed to survive in this competitive world. And she's only 7! She already has her sights on being president one day. Again, thank you very much."

We hear from many people who found that other versions of Sun Tzu's work obscured its meaning. For example,   Edwin Fuentes writes:

"As I read through your translation, I felt that I understood his [Sun Tzu's] work better and felt that other versions include too many excerpts from other people and confuse the reader more, making the reader not understand Tzu's original work for what it is."

A lot of people also write us to say how valuable they find our methods of diagramming Sun Tzu's ideas. Dennis Cobb was serving a fellowship that required a great deal of travel, bringing him to Beijing, where he purchased a number of books on Sun Tzu. He writes us:

".,,I find myself engrossed in digesting your take on this classic. I have greatly enjoyed your take on Sun's work, and quite like the diagrammatic method. It reinforces the duality of every aspect of competition in a way that stays sharp when involved competitive situations...Keep up the good work!"

Jeff S. agrees, having also spent some time studying Sun Tzu. He says:

"Your book [Amazing Secrets] is awesome. I've been studying AOW for around two years and your translation, commentary and especially the diagrams really help explain the concepts."

Or course, our interest is not just in explaining Sun Tzu, but in using it to help people with their lives. We are trying to bring something totally new to this "self-help" category. 

Bill Kopps who has a background of helping develop self-help books agrees. Working in psychological analysis and clinical psychology, he has reviewed several self-help systems and worked with those developing self-help books. However, he has generally soured on these books writing us:

"I tend to not look at them anymore because after a person has read a few they become redundant."

Then he goes on to say:

"But for some reason your course stuck out as seeming different...I wrote this email because I think your self help approach adds to the self help books and self help systems found today.  It is a new and novel approach. I would also like to express my thanks for the good job done on the audio and written form of 'The Art of War.'"

James Mirabel is a business person in Corpus Christi, Texas, and a student of our Warrior Class Lessons. He sums it up nicely:

"...Sun Tzu's Art of War keeps the science of Strategy simple so that even the average lay person can apply his principals to their everyday life. Sun Tzu's Strategy is easy to understand and with practice can change a persons life & way of thinking to give them a competitive edge in any situation...The one major change that really sticks out to me is how I now analyze every situation and relate the principals of the art of war to every completive situation. It is starting to become automatic."

Can we help you understand what you could be doing better in your life? The best way to find out is to start now.


Copyright 2008, Science of Strategy Institute, Gary Gagliardi, all right reserved.

Copyright 2001-2007 Clearbridge Publishing. All rights reserved.
The leading publishers of award-winning books based on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.