Saturday, August 30, 2014

Persistence Prevails: The Zebra 1 The Lion 0

How should one hold themselves in the face of adversity? 
In most instances, zebras that are under attack by lions, lose. In the final moment, their posture changed, they bowed their heads, and submitted to their fate. 

Sometimes, the zebra gets lucky and reverses the situation

The following film clip shows the zebra drowning the lion.

In life, the successful competitors (or strategists)  never bow their heads. They keep standing straight, never adopting the posture of defeat, and always refusing to surrender.  

"It is persistence which wins many challenges. And persistence is strictly a matter of force of will. ... Sometimes, the outcome of a competition is not decided by the first strategic move or even the third. ... Rather, fortitude is involved. Force of will is persistence. If one does not lose their sense of self, he or she will persist and their strategic power will not diminish. ... On the contrary, it will endure after their body has wasted away." - A Nameless Strategist

Understanding the configuration of one's Big Tangible Picture (BTP) and beyond, is the starting step. .We presumed that you know how to do that!?  ... Do you? 

Comments From The Compass Desk
From our experience, the will to prepare is greater than the will to win.  Do you know why?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Succeeding in the Information Economy as the Expert

To thrive in the global economy, one cannot be a mono-focused specialist. Those days are gone. The abundance of information and the profusion of copycat competition have created an unstable level of uneven parity.

The Expert
The 21st century expert is proficient in the act of integrating relevant points of various subject matters into one grand picture. It also enabled him or her to capitalize on major opportunities while mitigating the risks.

Some of the current group of experts do not possess the insight, the foresight and the perseverance to be the ultra class expert. They usually talk a good game of "what the objective" should be about and what is the approach to solving it. 

As a big picture thinker, these experts usually rely on their network to do the detail work. The results are usually just "good enough."

Following are the requirements of the expert:

  • Having the skill to define the dots;
  • Connecting them together on time, on budget and on target.
  • Staying focused on the target while being mindful of the relevant external points that influenced the terrain of the target. 
The completion of those three points usually guarantees the client that the expert's strategic advice is reliable, relevant and do-able.


Extinction of the Expert

How the knowledge economy is changing the innovation game.

By Denise Gershbein
The age of the expert is over. Information is flowing at such an everyone, everywhere, everything, all-the-time pace that participation in the knowledge economy is no longer optional, or a value-add. It’s compulsory. And it offers an identity crisis for those individuals and companies who call themselves experts, leaders, innovators, and problem solvers.
In the knowledge economy, you can’t achieve expert or lead status just by having a compelling idea, a creative design, or a body of experience to call upon, no matter what field you work in. Unfettered access to information means an expected participation in a larger number of domain verticals. Expectations for the quality of the idea are higher.
But while individual participation and production across domains increases, the bandwidth of the individual to validate his or her ideas shrinks. Your idea or topic will always have a germ somewhere else, whether you know it or not. Audiences are smarter, more skeptical, and more judgmental. Facts can be checked and disproved easily, and audiences can crowdsource a verdict quickly and summarily.
Innovation is a neutral term: it simply means “new.” But new isn’t enough when the crowd can do better. Today, the question of innovation and achieving it through cross-disciplinary collaboration and knowledge sharing is well beyond deep expertise or broad horizons. We’re beyond the lateral and the longitudinal, beyond the specialist or the generalist. We’re also coming to understand that the crowdsourced collective isn’t the whole answer. To paraphrase Malcolm Gladwell: You can’t crowdsource Shakespeare.
Convergence hasn’t delivered on its promise because it isn’t the solution: It’s only one step within a future-forward knowledge framework. Innovation is achieved after disciplines come together, when their organizing principles, themes, and guiding premises overlay in transparency and there is a resulting exponential accretion of knowledge and possibility.
The awakening to the power of our collective intelligence can be seen in the business media and the semantic gymnastics swirling around convergence, divergence, design thinking, innovation, and other catchwords. Convergence came on the scene when everyone figured out that there were other domains and verticals that needed to be considered in the practice of design; that there were other practices that could inform your own, other specialties to benefit from, shoulders of giants to be stood upon. Now, being “convergent” is like being multinational but not global. You’re on the big stage, but you haven’t achieved the statesmanship that comes with the full essence of understanding.
This awakening is likely a good thing, but it also means that the idea of a powerful collective intelligence is in its nascency. People don’t quite get it yet. Everyone is straining for the holy grail of innovation, but if everything is new, then change just becomes the norm and everything becomes disposable instead of special. Nothing is truly innovative in the finest meaning of the word.
Going forward, convergence must not be about the objects of design but about the process of creativity. Because of that it’s becoming harder to imagine a holistic, expert stance for an individual. True expertise and innovation increasingly depend on creativity and problem solving by community, or what we might call a “society of design.”
Does this mean experts, creative directors, and gurus are going extinct? It does if they try to hold on to the fading notion that they’re the central repository of expert knowledge. The fact is, encyclopedic knowledge is in the crowd, and specialized knowledge will rest with the individual. The leaders and experts of tomorrow have to be either polymaths (deep multi-domain experts), curators (those who collect or collate different domains), polyglots (the overlay and meaning makers), or all three.
Even then, effective leadership won’t come simply by collecting numerous disciplines under one roof. Nor will it come by buying a company for the purpose of associating oneself with expertise. True leaders and experts will have to support distributed knowledge networks by attracting polymaths, polyglots, and curators into their workforce, and by pursuing partnerships or collaborative consultancies externally. Leadership, expertise, and innovation will come from those who rise up to facilitate and speak the lingua franca of all domains.

"An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field." --- Niels Bohr


Monday, August 18, 2014

Using Baguazhang to Center One's Self

It has been awhile since we have posted an informational item on Baguazhang.  Following is an interesting article on the functionality of Baguazhang.

The Function of Circular Walking in Baguazhang

To walk in a circle is one of the most important techniques of baguazhang practice. With a good mastery of it, you will improve your baguazhang performance benefits in the following two ways

First of all, the circular movements of the feet may help improve your health and this function is served by the change of direction, the repetition of movements, the coordination of the dynamic and the static and the lowering of qi into the dantian, an area of 5 cm below the navel. In so doing, you can improve your internal and external exercises and moreover make them better coordinated. Specifically, internal exercise is to dredge channels and collateral passages, promote blood circulation and improve the function of internal organs while external exercise, which consists of the techniques executed with the hands, eyes, trunk and feet, is to limber up your muscles and joints and strengthen your physique. To walk in a circle can provide you with an opportunity of adjusting your breath. But there are some points to remember when you do the circular movements with your feet.

They are (1) Clear away all distracting thoughts, concentrate their energy on practice, relax your muscles, lower qi into the dantian, look straight at the center of circle and coordinate your breath and body movement; (2) try to avoid exerting brainless force; (3) make abdominal respiration your main breathing method; (4) keep your breath long and enough and your movements slow and natural. If you practice according to the above-mentioned principles for a long time, you will probably find that your qi and blood flow freely, your internal organs function effectively and your internal organs function and your lower limbs become strong and flexible.

When you have benefited so much from your practice, you will be able to prevent yourself from contracting premature osteoporosis, thus avoiding acquired deformity and chronic diseases in nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive systems. For those who have trouble in these systems, they will feel better after practicing as required for some time. If you achieve a good combination of the internal and external work and the dynamic and static exercise when you walk round and round, it will not only improve the function of your vestibular organs but also produce a beneficial effect of your central nervous system.

In addition, this walking exercise may also help you improve your skills for attack and defense. Assuming that your opponent is at the center of the circle. You may seek a chance of surprise attack by moving here and there in the eight diagrams. When you go in for an attack, defend yourself with your hands and hit at your opponent with your legs. With moving body, swinging legs and varied footwork and hand positions, you can gain an advantage over your opponent and make him helpless in the face of your attack. In fact, the main function of this exercise for actual combat is to help you make the best of your strong points and strike at his weak points so as to nullify his attack and defense. This requires you to be on the move when you observe the situation, build defense and initiate attack. Through this tactic, you will find it quite easy to achieve victory over your opponent.

(Translated by Jiang Hanzhong)
from Martial Arts of China Vol. 2 No.1

Comments From the Compass Desk
Baguazhang is a good exercise to center oneself.   The proper execution of this exercise usually help the strategist to develop the state of mindfulness.

You can learn more about centering through the practice of internal martial arts by visiting Cook Ding's Kitchen.

Side Note
In some remote areas, there are a few people who claimed that they could connect the principles of Sunzi to the practice of Baguazhang and to the concepts of Yi-jing. 

The problem behind their notion is that they could not describe the technical specifics for assessing the strategic complexity of a situation.and understanding the "corollary after-effect" of each projected choice.

# # #

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Best Practices of Desktop Strategists: Plan Your Work. Then Work Your Plan

Updated at 11:18 hrs

Plan your work. Then work your plan. Does that sound simple?

How can one plan their work when he or she does not know the basics for building a plan?  Better yet, does he or she know the configuration of the situation in terms of connectivity and consistency?

The Compass Process

Step One: Assess.   
Click here for the basics of assessing 

Step Two: Positioning Strategically by Planning and Preparing
Following is an abridged  listing of questions that the newbie project strategist should ask him or herself?

  • What is the first step for planning a project?
  • When does one establishes the metrics for their goals and objectives?
  • When does one establishes the priorities for their goals and objectives?
  • When does one establish the risk points for their goals and objectives?
Without the knowledge of those basics, the timeline will not be met and the project costs will escalated.  The project strategist would be lucky if half of the project requirements are met.

Some of our associates have suggested to me that the newbie strategist should take a class on strategic project management while reading the "Eight Strategy Classics" (Seven Military Classics of Ancient China + Sun Bin's Military Methods) during their off hours. It is that simple.  ... 

Step Three : Influence the Setting With One's Strategic Position
We will cover this specific topic in a future post.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Listen to Dr. Ralph Sawyer's View on the Dao De Jing on the John Batchelor's Radio Show

This past evening, John Batchelor  interviewed Dr. Ralph D. Sawyer, a famous Chinese military history expert and the translator of Sun Tzu (Sunzi) Art of War on the martial perspective of Dao De Jing. 

Click here  for the audio. 

Comments From the Compass Desk 
Those who have complied with the essence of the Dao De Jing, understand that the principal challenge in life is to fluidly manage the on-coming changes while maintaining their virtue. 

One of the most challenging tasks for any reader of the Dao De Jing  is to connect their personal experiences to one of the 81 chapters.   This feat would enable one to comprehend the state of their virtue while deciding on how to adjust to the extremity of a situation. It also allows him/her to anticipate certain forthcoming opportunities.

Our experience tells us that this feat could only be achieved by consistently possessing and maintaining a center of mindfulness.   ... More on this unique view will be expanded in a future post.   

Side note: You could learn more on the basics of centerness by visiting Cook Ding's Kitchen.

We highly recommended this translation of the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching)  for those who are involved in a highly competitive terrain  and are in need of a "worldly" viewpoint.   . . . 

Endorsement  of Other Translations
We also highly endorsed the D.C. Lau's  and  the Dr. Roger T. Ames translation of the Dao De Jing  for a different perspective.

Side Note 
Choosing the tactical approach of wu-wei to complete for any objective in an predictable setting is easy for any neophyte/professional amateur.  Determining the predictability of a situation while implementing the same "idealistic" approach in an uncertain setting is the real challenge.  We will discuss more on this topic later.

# # #

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Scripting to a Victory (The Bill Walsh Way)

(updated at 15:15 hrs)

One of the most interesting traditions/practices in sports is the scripting of the game plan.  From the 70's to the early 90's, Coach Bill Walsh innovated and utilized the concept of scripting the first 25 plays in his games. Then employing the results as a springboard to dominate his competition.

This process model has assisted him to win three Super Bowls and two college bowl games. 

His many prodigies have also employed it to win their shares of high stakes games and championships too.

The Basics of Scripting
Scripting is one of those unique practices that is worth learning and using. This practice enables the implementers to maximize their level of strategic efficiency.  It is quite easy to learn,  but moderately difficult to implement for the obvious competitive reasons.

Retrospectively, the completion of a script usually provides the principal script developer/chief decision makers the feeling of self-preparation. It also gave them a level of confidence.

The basic essentials are: a clipboard, some lined paper, some good writing pens (with red ink, blue ink, black ink and green ink), patience, persistence. a well-temperature room with an extreme state of quietude, a coffee pot of warm water, some tea leaves and the skill of assessing, positioning and influencing

Having an assortment of white boards, a tablet PC and/or a smart phone is not always essential for script development.  But it never hurts to have them.

The Compass Project 
We are currently working on a book project that focuses on the fundamentals of scripting through our macro process model of Assessing, Positioning and Influencing. 

This book is focused on the fundamentals of shaping and staging the competition through the application of an array of Chinese strategic principles and stratagems by scripting the right meta-tactical plays.  

How to Script One's Gameplan
One needs to know the objective, the approach, their means and the modes of each competitor before deciding on the different types of scripted plays and the order of the scripted plays.  

This approach enables the offensive play caller to decide on the approach for staging the competitor for a knockdown or a knockout while utilizing their opponent's proclivity as one of the key indicators. There are other key indicators that will be discussed in our current book project .

The Problem of Losing One's View of the Big Tangible Picture (BTP)
In the heat of the battle, some people usually forget the specifics behind their objectives and begin to panic while mis-comprehending the circumstances for staying on course or exiting from the gameplan. 

Our solution is the usage of the Compass PACE guidelines. It guides the offensive play callers to know when to stay on course or when to change direction in certain situations.

Building the PACE Guidelines

The development of the PACE guidelines before the scripting of the array of tactical plays, allows the chief strategic decision makers to understand what is their target and what direction they are pursuing. 

What are the PACE Guidelines
  • Priority Objectives: This category focuses on the ranking and the specifics of the targets
  • Approach: This category focuses on the definition of the strategic timing points for being efficient and flexible
  • Condition: This category focuses on the possibility of certain positive case scenarios and the contingency plans 
  • Exception: This category focuses on the possibility of certain negative case scenarios and the contingency plans 
This tool also allows the offensive play caller to know when to stay on course or when to change direction.

We will delineates the psychological reasoning for using the PACE guidelines in a future post.

Identifying the math and physics behind anything relevant is sometimes easy. 

Establishing the Adjustment of the Big Tangible Picture
Once the scripted play is called, the offensive play caller knows something about the defense while the defensive play caller might know something about the state of the offensive team.  Based on the previously called play and other factors, the defensive play caller could possibility figure out the offensive play caller's next possible play. 

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave...when first we practice to deceive.”  
- Walter Scott, Marmion

Once the allotment of the scripted plays are called, the game of cat and mouse begins.  The offensive play caller might decide to recirculate some of the previous scripted plays or run a variational change off those plays.

A Mini-Test Case of a Scripted Play 
From a Opening (Starter) Plays Script  
Situation: 1st down and 10 or 2nd down and short, on one's own 30 yard line.

After implementing a quick trap to strong side from the pro set formation (slot left, TE Right) on the second play (regardless of the result in some instances), the offensive play caller might signal the same play with either one  of the following options in the 26th play:
  • same run play with a different set of shift and motion by the wide receivers
  • a play action pass with a five step drop; and  
  • a play action pass with a QB rolling out to the weakside.  
Each option is depended on the previous response and the projected response of the defense.  The strategic state and the strategic efficiency of the competition usually determines the manner of play calling.

Side note: Most playcallers preferred the 15-20 plays script model for the psychological reason that they feel that they would have a good read on the competition's intent and methods.  A few might run a 25 plays script for the obvious reason of exposing the probable deception lead by the defense.  

Those who are deeply skilled in the art and science of strategic shaping and staging, preferred the 25 plays option. 

Comments From the Compass Desk 
Regardless of the array of innovative concepts that Coach Walsh has contributed to the game of football, the script is one of the most useful tools that could be applied to modern day life.

In an unpredictable setting, the tool enables the implementer to strategize in terms of contingencies. 

Click here on some of the basics of scripting 

As mentioned before, the smart strategist could build a script with the following items: a quiet and well-temperatured room; a ream of lined paper; colored pens and a good set of assessment skills. (In some instances, high tech tools are not needed.)

There is a psychological reason for using pen and paper for the initial stage. Those who have seriously studied Yi Quan or Taijiquan, would understand why. 

# You do know how to assess. Do you?  

Whenever you watch a football game, ask yourself if the offensive coordinator is calling a well-scripted game. 

Side Note
We didn't published our book on assessing strategically through the employment of Sunzi's strategic principles because of the quantity of Sunzi's type  of books that were being pushed in the published books marketplace.  Most of these books were quite average or below average regarding to their concept of applications and new ideas. 

Some of them repeated the same obvious points- "if they do this, you do this" type of approach without ever emphasizing on the importance of comprehending the strategic state of the situation. They also outlined the same old idealistic rules of thumb.

For the apparent reasons, the approach of utilizing the rules of thumbs and the simplification of perspective is for amateurs.

These writers have not thoroughly learned the process of "assessing strategically", one of the holy grails behind the Sunzi's essay. Some aspects of this skill can be found in Jiang Tai Gong's Six Secret Teachings. 

Our intent was not to get lost in the abyss of high noise and low signal.
What makes our book unique is our focus on the connectivity between the scripted plays to the categories of adjustment plays and situational plays. 

Whenever the book is published, we hope that you like it.

A Few More Side Notes
Click here for a field level example of assessing, positioning and influencing.

For the Niners Faithful, we recommended this great book by Daniel Brown- 100 Things 49ers fans should know and do before they die  and Bill Walsh, Steve Jamison and Craig Walsh's book -  The Score Takes Care of Itself.  

Our associates at Cook Ding's Kitchen have always reminded the novices and the neophytes that one cannot successfully strategize if he or she is not able to stay focused on their immediate objective. They also reminded them that the reading of the Art of War does not help either.  

# # #

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Time Warner 1 Murdoch 21st Century Fox’s 0 (Our View of a Economist Article on Time Warner vs. Murdoch)

To implement a proper takeover, one must devise and implement the perfect ambush. 

The initial move of a successful strategist is to understand the configuration of the grand territory of the target in terms of situations and the foundation behind those situations.

Murdoch's First Move 
21st Century Fox Inc.’s bombshell bid of $75 billion for Time Warner Inc. (TWX) started as a chat over lunch between two longtime friends: Fox President Chase Carey and Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner’s chairman and chief executive.

Carey, Rupert Murdoch’s No. 2 at Fox, approached Bewkes about a merger of the two media companies on June 9 in New York, people familiar with the matter said. Bewkes, 62, didn’t say if he supported a deal and raised several concerns ranging from Fox’s dual-class voting structure to what would happen with CNN, said the people, who asked not to be named because the matter is private. Time Warner’s CEO ended by telling Carey, 60, he needed to inform his board and would get back with an answer.

He never did.

Carey called Bewkes at least twice seeking a reply. Bewkes said he needed more time. 

Click here for the full post. 

The Outcome
Below is an excerpt from The Economist.The full post may be read here. Enjoy

Companies usually overstretch in two ways. They propose combinations that annoy regulators—despite the passionate appeals of Masayoshi Son, Softbank’s founder, American regulators were unimpressed by his plans to shrink the number of big mobile operators from four to three. Or they propose deals that test the limits of their balance-sheets and the patience of their investors. Mr Murdoch was offering a takeover premium of about $20 billion, more than the capitalised value of the cost savings that could have been achieved, suggesting the deal would have destroyed value for his shareholders. Reflecting this, his own share price had steadily fallen, reducing the value of the stock being offered to Time Warner. If Mr Murdoch chooses to bid again, he would have to find deeper cost savings. After Astra’s board dismissed an offer on May 26th, Pfizer’s shareholders had limited appetite for a dearer bid—although the American firm has not ruled that out.

By tradition, when deals flop, everyone pretends nothing has really changed. Thus Mr Murdoch declared that “21st Century Fox’s future has never been brighter”, while Mr Son said, “Our focus moving forward will be on making Sprint the most successful carrier.”

In fact failed transactions often have lasting consequences. Target firms that cook up ambitious forecasts as part of their defence face the hard task of meeting them. Astra said it expected sales almost to double by 2023 despite their being stagnant today. Share buy-backs are one way to rent some loyalty. Time Warner’s shares fell by 13% the day after Mr Murdoch’s exit. It plans to repurchase $5 billion of its shares, equivalent to 8% of its total.

Our View 
At this level of the "Competitive Capitalism" game, was this move,  "a test run" or was there an alternative motive/target behind this failed takeover?  

If you were in their place, what is your strategic target and what is your grand tactical approach?

Our Approach
Matching the "Sunzi's Nine Situations" to one's own grand situation while completing one's own grand objective.

The Concept
Before confronting the competition, the successful strategist always performed the following strategic moves:
  • Securing the path of least resistance (the sixth situation); .
  • Encircling the competition while minimizing their strategic options (the eighth situation); and 
  • Positioning the competition where any retaliation becomes futile (Avoiding the ninth situation).
The Thought of the Day
If this was their tangible move, Murdoch and his strategic team erred because of their poor assessment of the target's strategic prowess. 

While in the state of pausing, they are now quietly contemplating and waiting for their next big target. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Understanding the Big Tangible Picture by Reading Jiang Tai Gong's Six Secret Teachings

The Six Secret Teachings is a favorite book for the serious strategists who wanted to understand the Big Tangible Picture (BTP) of an extreme competitive terrain for over two thousand years. Those who are involved in the modern consulting/ strategy game, could learn something from this classical book. 

The Origin
In the Zhou dynasty of the 11th century BC, an elderly, eccentric advisor known as Tai Gong devised a set of principles relating to government and warfare through the reported conversations with Emperor Wen and his successor, Emperor Wu.

Throughout Chinese history, there were many "secret teachings" and "confidential notebook and essays" in many areas. Labeling these certain items under the category as a secret makes them more desirable as they seem scarce and harder to access. To access these so-called secrets typically requires investment that leads to greater commitment, as the student acts to sustain consistency with their investment.

(There is a long range benefit from learning from this "exclusive" manual. We could tell you. But it is better if you read it.) 

Chapter One: King Wen's Teacher 
The first chapter introduces King Wen and his meeting with his teacher, Jiang Tai Gong who utilizes the analogy of fishing to offer learning points.

He talked about the importance of being a 'True men of worth' and that it is the type of person that any wise ruler should be. By speaking in this manner , the Tai Gong immediately suggested that he could be his close adviser. The king immediately understood the value of Jiang Tai Gong's words (and being advised by his scribe), accepted this relationship.

The Art of Bait and Lure
The point about requiring big bait and a strong line to catch big fish is notable in the importance is places on commitment. If you are cautious or offer only simple bait, the big fish will detect your lack of commitment and either ignore you or capitalize on your weakness.

This section includes a direct reminder to the king to be kind to his people, pointing out how followership is thus created. The lesson that many of today's leaders still need to learn is that there is a base human nature towards the utilization of punishment and reward others when motivation is needed . It requires more skill to use kindness that leads people to truly want to do as you ask.  This enables you to seldomly command the people to do your bidding.

  • A true man of worth is usually ambitious. Using the fisherman analogy, he pursues whales and sharks. While the common man have ordinary and common goals. As a fisherman, he catches only guppies and minnows. 
  • True men are drawn together by common interest in significant affairs.
  • To lure a big fish, one needs a big but attractive bait and a strong fishing line. This may require significant commitment from the ambitious leader. Simple, glittering rewards only attract the small fry.
  • A worthy (or sage)  ruler utilizes many approaches that play to the emotions of his counter parts. He shows humanity, virtue and righteousness by sharing, sparing, relieving and eliminating hardship. This is the manner to create followers.
Side Notes 
Other future posts on Jiang Tai Gong will include brief notes on the gist of each relevant chapter of this classic.  

For more details on both this chapter and the full translation of Six Secret Teachings, read Dr. Ralph D. Sawyer's Seven Military Classics of Ancient China (1993). 

# In the age of instant information and immediate gratification, some people do not know what is tangible anymore.  The truth that originated from the classics, has never changed.  

More to come