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8 Jul 2013

Top Seven Sun Tzu Quotes: #3 Positioning

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Sun Tzu Top 7

1982 Reprint Oxford University Press 1963

1982 Reprint
Oxford University Press 1963

At number three in my list of top seven Sun Tzu quotes from The Art of War, I have:

 Thus a victorious army wins its victories before seeking battle; an army destined to defeat flights in the hope of winning.

We often see planning, training and research as the major activities implied by this quote; yet, the true critical one is positioning. Positioning is taking direct actions to affect specific outcomes; it’s stacking the deck. In warfare, it’s moving swiftly to seize the high ground or cut off enemies’ supplies before engaging. In real estate, it’s buying properties before they become valuable or influencing zoning laws.

Positioning allows us to tackle uncertainty. In chess, superior positioning allows pieces to address effectively problems and opportunities as they arise. In business, doing the same with resources and people nets the same. The best example of positioning in business and many other endeavors is relationship building. The sun might not control us, but it certainly influences us. Similarly, we might not control people, but we can influence them. Influencing affects many business activities.

Yet, relationships take time. Having appropriately calibrated expectations and patience are important, but aggressiveness can ruin them. Speaking before a group that knows you will tend to produce better evaluations than a group that doesn’t. Networking with individuals prior to speaking positions better evaluations. Increasing “face time” with the boss positions promotions and better compensation. Joining groups with desirable contacts positions better business. In fact, much of networking is positioning, planting seeds for future harvests.

In the end, Sun Tzu says we’ve performed good positioning when we know the product will sell, the ad campaign will succeed and the business will grow.  In other words, we don’t need to just do it . . . and hope for the best.


Note: Versions of this quote usually appear in the 14th paragraph of the fourth chapter, Disposition.


Series Navigation<< Top Seven Sun Tzu Quotes: #4 ChangeTop Seven Sun Tzu Quotes: #2 Integration, Holism >>

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