Monday, October 28, 2013

Competing and Succeeding by Understanding Sun Bin's Military Methods (The Art of Warfare)

(This post was accidentally published earlier and has been updated at 16:28 hr.)

As previously mentioned in other posts, the historical biography of Sun Bin is a superb example of how one surpasses adversities through Sun's methodicalness and mindful awareness.

Regardless that this post is a compendium of our many past  posts on Sun Bin,  It also expands on some portions of those previous posts. In  the At some point, we will include the projected Sun Bin's assessment session of his opponent. 

If you are an underdog contesting in a competitive situation and searching for some tactical ideas while staying focused on your target. That is one heck of  a challenge. Please read the biography of Sun Bin

Following is a listing of tactics that Sun Bin was famous for:
Shedding the Shell Like a Cicada (金蝉脱壳 Jin Chan Tuo Ke )

The first tactic that Sun Bin was famous for the Shedding Shell Like a Cicada tactic (金蝉脱壳 Jin Chan Tuo Ke). It is best used when one is in a disadvantageous position.

Sun Bin possessed exceptional talent in the area of strategy and tactics even in his early years. As a reward, he was given a copy of the Art of War by Wang Xu, his military studies professor.

There were stories of Sun Bin having the ability to recite Sun Tzu (Sunzi): The Art of War and other Chinese classics by verbatim. His genius was envied by a classmate, Pang Juan, who later became a strategic general in the state of Wei. Afterward, Pang Juan deceived Sun Bin into going to Wei country and then framed him for being a traitor. Sun Bin suffered the corporal punishment of having his kneecap chopped off and the Chinese character "Traitor" stamped on the side of his head.

Pang Juan later convinced Sun Bin that he saved him from the death penalty. In return, Sun Bin decided to reproduce the entire Art of War (AoW) manual to show his appreciation 

As the Art of War manual was being jotted, Pang's servant informed Sun Bin on the true intent behind Pang Juan's sincerity.

Sun Bin became furious, burned his copy of the Art of War and pretended to be insane. Pang Juan was surprised about this occurrence and angrily sent him to the private prison of the Wei's state's . During that period, he consistently portrayed the disposition of insanity while waiting for the right opportunity to escape. Years later, he was rescued by a Qi's state representative and became their chief strategist and served as a deputy to Tian ji, the military general.

First Thoughts from the Compass Desk
We contemplated that Sun Bin reflected on his life while analyzing the complex configurations of his situation during the book burning process and consciously realized that he must not be a threat to Pang Juan for the purpose of self-survival. We realized that it took a high state of conscious awareness for him to be so methodical especially during a highly stressful situation. ...

So, what is the "connective" lesson behind Sun Bin's displaying of intelligence and then Pang Juan's deceiving him?

" ...Once upon a time, there was a small sparrow who was flying south for the winter. He became frozen solid during the flight and fell to the ground. To make matters worse, the cow crapped on him. But the manure was all warm and it defrosted him. He felt warm and was quite happy to be alive. Soon, the bird started to sing. A hungry cat strolled along, cleared off the manure, looked at the little bird and ate him.

The moral of the story is that everyone who craps on you is not necessarily your enemy, and everyone who gets you out of the crap, is not necessarily your friend. If you're warm and happy wherever you are, you should maintain a sense of quietude. "

Sun Bin should have been mindfully aware of the full configuration of their situation before making a relevant strategic decision . . . Knowing the full scope of one's current situation, does matter . . .  Knowing the right process model and implementing it properly is what counts.

Self Pity
"I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A bird will fall frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.  ..."  - D.H. Lawrence

During the book burning session, Sun Bin also realized that the impact of the Pang Juan's deception.  

Focusing on self survival while showing the guise of zero-threat became his immediate goal. He had to mindfully eradicate any trace of self pity before proceeding forward.

As his own self pity dissipated, whatever pain that Sun Bin felt, kept him awake, angry and focused  while reminding him that his survival was his principal focus.  The pain reminded him that he was still alive and that continual of his self-survival was pertinent.

Horse Racing for Tanji (田忌赛马 Tian Ji Sai Ma)

After escaping to Qi State, Sun Bin became a guest of Tianji, the military general of the Qi emperor.

Tianji was a gambler whose betting skill was quite questionable. He and the Qi emperor have always gambled through a series of three horse races. Each principal had three horses. From a descending order, the horse with the fastest time raced first. The winner was one with the most winning races.

Each race usually started like this: Tian matched his first horse against the King's first horse, and so on. Each and every time, Tian lost by split seconds.

Sun Bin assessed the criteria of the situation and offered to Tianji's the simple solution of racing his third horse against the emperor's first horse. then racing his 1st horse against the emperor's second horse and his second horse against the emperor's third horse.

Tanji took the suggestion and secured a victorious outcome of 2 to 1.

The Qi ruler was so impressed with the outcome and wanted to appoint Sun Bin as his military general-field commander. Sun Bin graciously declined the offer with the explanation that the solders would not respect a handicapped person. Instead, he suggested to the King to appoint Tianji and committed that he will be a strategic adviser to Tian

Lessons from Sun Bin
Due to the scope of the various critical strategic factors, the successful strategist cannot prevail successfully on all strategic situations. He/she would only risk in certain strategic situations where the results of a quality win exceeds the quality of the loss.  

The key steps to Sun Bin's approach are:

  • Collecting the specific data and assessing it; 
  • Choosing the proper matchups; and  
  • Creating the particular schemes for the matchups. 
Mixing and Matching 
A baseball batter who hits the ball three out of nine attempts, or a basketball's point guard who scores 50% of his three point shots are usually considered to be superstars. 

Certain strategic situations require one to know the standard and the scope of the situation before making a relevant decision.

Retrospectively, Sun Bin strategically solved a problem 2000 years plus before the subject of operation research was ever conceived...

Some More Thoughts from the Compass Desk
Sun Bin assessed the Big Tangible Picture and made the right decision by identifying the relevant attributes in terms of the precedence, the connectivity and the cyclical process before devising the plan of creating "the mismatch."

So how do you assess your Big Tangible Picture?

The answer could be in your copy of the Sun Bin's Art of Warfare (or Sun Pin's Military Methods). .. Both versions are great reading for the hardcore competitive strategists. ... 

"A team that is unable to discern good fortune and misfortune in the as-yet-uninformed does not understand preparations."  - Military Methods, 22 (A minor revision on a concept from Sun Bin's essay)

Wei Wei Jiu Zhao (Besiege Wei to Rescue Zhao 围魏救赵)
The state of Wei was seeking total control of China, sent an army to attack the state of Zhao under the leadership of Pang Juan. The ruler of Zhao immediately asked the ruler of the Qi state for military assistance. Sun Bin was assigned the task of saving the Zhao state. He then devised a scheme of relieving the besieged by besieging the base of the besiegers.

After a long battle, the Wei army relinquished their offensive siege against Zhao as expected, and rushed toward their home state.The army of "Qi" then maneuvered ahead of them and laid an ambush on the way, inflicting a crushing defeat on the army of Wei.

Business Example
In 1982, Bendix corporation attempted to takeover Martin Marietta, a military defense companyMartin Marietta returned the favor by attempting the Pac-Man Defense.  Later they targeted United Technologies against Bendix Corporation.  At that moment, Bendix did not have the strategic resources to counter that move and immediately asked Allied Corporation to absorbed them. Conclusively, Martin Marietta retained their independence.

Three Questions From The Compass Desk
  • What was Sun Bin thinking about when strategizing on the "Wei and Zhao" situation?
  • What was in his Big Tangible Picture when Sun Bin was thinking about the sieging of Zhao state?
  • Why is this stratagem categorized in the 36 Stratagems category of "Advantageous Stratagems?"
Click here for an animated version of the Battle of Maling

Reducing (the number of) Stoves to Deceive the Opposition  
( Jian Zao Huo Di 减 灶 惑  敌 )
After the victory at Guiling, Sun Bin was now one point ahead of Pang Juan in terms of one-upmanship. Pang Juan lost his political ranking within the Wei's court and needed to avenge his loss and regain some "face."

When the opportunity to eradicate his previous loss, Pang Juan believed that he was emotionally ready to pursue his rival with vengeance .

Sun Bin assessed a succession of variables from their past situations in order to lure Pang Juan into a grand situation of coup de grace.  Disguised as the disordered prey, he presented the image of non-unified chaos by reducing the numbers of stoves at each daily turn.

Conclusively,  he capitalized on his opportunity from the positive side of the seventh, the eight and the ninth terrain (situation).  

The outcome became obvious. Sun Bin prevailed and Pang Juan became an anecdote of what happens to an over-emotional rival who possessed superficial strategic skills.

Additional historical information can be found at this link.

The Art of the Strategic Power
Good strategic power is about creating a strategic situation that favors the implementer. It is usually consisted of many specific tactical factors. Positioning one's own situation while diminishing the potency of the competitor's strategic power is the process of implementing one's strategic power. The zero sum gain concept immediately kicks in . We will touch on "the matrix of connectivity" concept that is behind the art of applying strategic power in the future.

After reading this post on Sun Bin. do you think that he utilized his "strategic power" quite effectively?

Do you know what was the commonality that connected to all four tactics?

The connecting point was that Sun Bin understood his opposing counterpart's psychological tendencies and deficiencies.

Those who are able to recognize the configurations of the various strategic situations that are ahead of them, usually possess an slightly advantage. Historically, it has been proven that they can overcome their adversarial situations.

Thoughts From the Compass Desk
Knowing the emotional state of Pang Juan especially after his victory at Guiling, enabled Sun Bin to use a "baiting and luring" tactic to influence his arch-rival to shrink their force (reliquishing their "sixth situational factor") while positioning them into a "heavenly trap" (You can cross reference it to "the seventh situation.")

In summary, knowing the relevant components within the current situation and the 
connectivity to othersituations does matter.

To thrive in the current world of uncertain shifts and changes, the successful strategists pragmatically create their own opportunity by understanding of how the world operates instead of searching and waiting for a certain scenario to occur.
"He who has mastered this method knows the way of heaven and earth, has the support of the populace, and is fully aware of the opposing situation. … When he needs to determine his battle array, he knows how to prepare the formations. He combats when there is assurance of victory. He stops fighting when there isn't. … For one who has really mastered the method, his opposition can do nothing to escape their defeat."
--- An updated paraphrase from Sun Bin (famous strategist from the Warring States era and the great grandson of Sunzi)
Regardless of your settings and your pursuits, always align with the Dao.

Sun Bin's Lesson
Due to the various critical strategic factors, one cannot prevail on all strategic situations. He/she could only risk enough where the quality of the wins exceeds the quality of the losses.

A baseball batter who hits a ball three out of nine attempts, is usually considered to be a superstar.

The Distinction between Sunzi and Sun Bin
Look at those well-known ploys. Ask yourself this question- What was the common connection between all of the ploys? He understood the psychological tendencies of his opposing counterpart.

One great distinction between Sunzi's and Sun Bin's view of strategy is that Sun Bin focused on understanding the intricate mindset of the targeted opposition before deciding on any act of influencing it.  Therefore each implemented move would have some significance and would not be wasted.  

Two more points. Unlike his ancestor, Sun Bin was content to win effectively by prevailing in two out of the three races. He pragmatically knew that winning a complete war is near-impossible. While everyone reads Sunzi, how many of them really understand the black art of strategic assessment?

Sun Bin's was the first to formulate the game theory approach of utilizing a mix and match approach. It worked as long as the ruler of Qi State was staying on course with a predictable strategic approach of directly matching their strength to the opposition's weaknesses. . His approach was quite innovative since it happened 2500 years ago. 

One great distinction between Sunzi's and Sun Bin's view of strategy is that Sun Bin focused on comprehending the mindset of the targeted opposition before deciding on any act of influencing it. Study those well-know ploys and one could see the common connection between all of the ploys.

Unlike his ancestor, Sun Bin was content to win effectively by methodically transforming the "underdog" situation into his advantageous move.

By prevailing successfully in two out of the three races, Sun Bin pragmatically knew that winning a conflict with no damage is near impossible, especially if there is a timeline and a economic cost factor behind it . There are other reasons behind it. Do you know what they are?

In summary, Sunzi essay focuses on a generic (high level) strategy approach and an assortment of strategic and tactical principles for the reader to follow. What differs Sun Bin's from his great grandfather is his emphasis on tactically attacking the competitor's mind's by knowing their motive and methods. It reminded me of certain particulars of game theory and game psychology.

Side Note
To those  who have read the Sunzi essay, do you think any of you really understand the black art of strategic assessment from a panorama view (or from a "open field awareness" perspective)?  

Do you think you or others can integrate the comprehension of each competitor's objective and the many degrees of specifics behind their tactical approach into your Big Tangible Picture?

Assess.  ... Position.  ... Influence. ... 
"Concentrate every effort on subduing its heart and mind." - Sun Bin Chapter 33  (Ames translation)

"The expert in using the military has three basic strategies which he applies: the best strategy is to attack the enemy's reliance upon acuteness of mind; the second is to attack the enemy's claim that he is waging a just war; and the last is to attack the enemy's battle position (shi).   
- Sun Bin , Chapter 34 (Ames translation)    

As mentioned earlier, the goal of Sun Bin's essay is focused on understanding the targeted opposition's mindset before the decision of influencing the target is ever concluded.  This type of thinking is pre-OODA where one assesses by observing, positioning by one's decision to orientate and choosing the goal and the specifics, and influences the targeted area by one's actions

Final Thought
When competing in a strategic situation, are you able to mindfully assess  the Big Tangible Picture and then ask the following question, " ...Could I succeed?"

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