Saturday, May 3, 2014

Learning How to Assess a Chaotic Situation From a Classic Samurai Movie (Sanjuro)

(updated on 05.05.14, 5:55 hrs)

Kurosawa's Sanjuro is a very good movie for those who are interested in learning how to assess (or read) a situation in terms of its configuration. 

Toshiro Mifune plays Sanjuro, a ronin who saves a group of young samurai from being slaughtered by a high political official and then began to mentor them on possessing the right set of information before consummating any strategic decision. (The storyline is slightly more complex than what is being described here.)

Throughout the movie,  he indirectly advised them to do the following steps: 

  • Assess their situation patiently with the tangible truth; 
  • Sort through the information; and 
  • Act on rational logic not on emotional impulse. 

This grand lesson was repeated many times.

Scenes From the Movie
  • Board meeting
  • Just Giving Me Some Money
  • Staking Out the Enemy
  • Three Cats and A Tiger
  • Two Unsheathed Swords
In each of the mentioned scenes, he assisted the samurais on identifying their objective with the given information, instead of pursuing a objective without zero information by constantly reminding them to patiently study the configuration of each situation by focusing on a set of particular factors and items before concluding a decision.

Throughout the movie, Sanjuro  almost always made quality decisions- except for the choice of the Komyo Temple for his story and the picking of the flowers at the wrong time (for the purpose of signaling his group of samurai to raid the targeted house). 

At the near conclusion of this movie, this group of novice samurai finally learned the lesson of making good strategic decisions by being self-patient. 

The Dao of Decision Management 
There are a few good lessons for the budding chief decision makers: 

Self Control
Mutsuta's wife: You're too sharp. That's your trouble. You're like a drawn sword. Sharp, naked without a sheath. You cut well. But good swords are kept in their sheaths. 

Gathering Intelligence 
Sanjuro emphasized the lesson of gathering and assessing information. 

Instead of vaulting into an uncertain tactical situation, the smart strategist must ensure that he/she have the right set of information before ever concluding a tangible decision.

Diverting and Deceiving
There were also a few good examples of misdirection ("divert to deceive" tactics) in this movie. Each example begins with the chief decision makers who are operating with incomplete information..

A Compass Insight 
Whenever, one is not focused  on their current task-objective while not being mindful of their setting and beyond, the probability of errors will definitely rise.

In a chaotic setting, remember that good swords are kept in their sheaths

Minor Jotting

Sugino is the man with a beard who trained Toshiro Mifune in the way of the sword for the movie Yojimbo and  Sanjuro.

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