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8 Important Tips from Sun Tzu’s Art of War



‘The Art of War’ is a military strategy book written by the 6th century Chinese author Sun Tzu. It is a classic and is considered to be one of the greatest books ever written on the subject. The principles explained in this book are applicable in various fields of planning, business tactics or even political campaigning. It was even used by the Brazilian football coach to plot his match strategy for the 2002 World Cup. Wherever there is a ‘versus’ scenario, these tactics can be used.

1. Realize that the victorious strategist is he who only seeks battle after the victory has been won. He who is destined to lose, fights first and then looks for victory. It is the acme of excellence to not only win, but to master winning at ease. The clever fighter makes no mistakes and establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated. He secures his position so that he may seem invincible and judiciously hides his weaknesses.

2. Understand that the control of a large force is no different than controlling of a few men, being merely the question of dividing the force. The true leader knows both how to utilize his resources and when to make a decision. He plans by making a combination of direct and indirect tactics. He combines his forces so that the enemy may bear similarity to an egg in the path of a grinding stone. Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

3. Know that to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence.Supreme excellence consists of breaking you’re enemy’s resistance without fighting. It is better to recapture an entire army, establishment or company than to destroy it. Hence, the highest form of generalship is to foil you’re enemy’s plans. Second best is to prevent the junction of his forces. Next in order is to attack his forces in the field(direct encounter) and the worst is to conquer his forces. The rule is to avoid destruction if possible. The skillful leader subdues his enemies troops without any fighting. He captures their kingdom without laying siege to them. He overthrows their nation without lengthy operations. He triumphs without losing a man.

4. Know that it is an essential in war to know when to attack. If we outnumber the enemy, we attack them. When evenly matched, we may offer battle. When slightly inferior, we may overcome by superior strategy. If unequal on all accounts, we must flee. For a greater force will, in the end, overcome the inferior force. There are thus 5 essentials to victory… He will win:

  • who knows when to fight and when not to
  • who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
  • who’s army is animated by the same spirit throughout all the ranks.
  • who prepares and takes the enemy unprepared.
  • who has full control over his decisions.

5. Know your enemy as you know yourself.In war, let your objective be victory and not lengthy campaign. Avoid prolonged warfare. Invade your enemy’s resources, for 1 quota of his provisions is equivalent to 20 of our own. Use your enemy’s strength to augment your own.

6. Understand that the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy and does not allow his will to be imposed on him. You can be successful only if you attack those points that are undefended and only defend those which cannot be attacked. Throw in you’re enemy’s way that which he cannot comprehend. This will force him to come out even of the darkest of shadows and reveal himself. Divide his forces and keep your forces concentrated. Scheme so as to discover an enemy’s plan. Find his vulnerabilities. Compare your strength to his. Supreme strategy always aids the inferior side. Do not repeat those tactics that have previously gained you victory. Let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.

7. Accept that soldiers must be treated with humanitarianism but controlled by the means of iron discipline. Treat them as your own children and they will stand by you unto death.

8. Believe that the general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service is a true jewel. The question of using a strong or weak force is a question of studying the terrain. We must never enter an alliance with someone without studying their designs. It is only when an army is put in harm’s way that it is capable of striking a death blow for victory. At first, exhibit the coyness of a maiden, until he gives you an opening. Then emulate the rapidity of a running hare and it will be too late for the enemy to oppose you. Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles without cultivating the spirit of enterprise. The enlightened ruler lays his plans way beforehand. The triumphant commander is he who has the foreknowledge and wisdom to manage his resources effectively and execute his plans without errors.
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Lessons Learnt from The Lean Startup



The Lean Startup book authored by Eric Ries has been sitting on my shelf for quite sometime now, so since I am currently contributing to the making of a startup I figured I’ll take a look into it.

The book is divided into 3 parts, after reading the first two I had my mind blown with the pragmatic and scientific approach to building startups that is described in the book.

In this post, I would like to share some important insights that I gained regarding building highly innovative businesses.

Validating Value Proposition And Growth Strategy Is The Priority

Usually, a highly innovative startup company is working in its most early stage at building a product or a service that will create a new market.

Consumers or businesses have not been yet exposed to something similar to what is going to be built by the startup. Therefore the absolute priority for startups in early stage is to validated their value proposition i.e. to get real data about eventual customers interest regarding their product/service.

The other priority is to validate that the growth strategy that is going to be executed is, in fact, effective.

The growth strategy of a startup is its plan to acquire more and more customers in the long term and in a sustainable fashion.

Three kinds of growth strategies are described in the book:

  • paid growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to be charged for the product or service, the cash earned from early users is reinvested in acquiring new users via advertising for example
  • viral growth in which you rely on the fact that customers are going to bring customers as a side effect of using the product/service
  • sticky growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to use the service in some regular fashion, paying for the service each time (via subscription for example).

These growth strategies are sustainable in the sense that they do not require continuous large capital investments or publicity stunts.

It is important to know as soon as possible which strategy or combination of strategies is the most effective at driving growth.

Applying The Scientific Method

The scientific method is a set of techniques that helps us figure out correct stuff. After making some observations regarding a phenomenon, you formulate a hypothesis about that phenomenon.

The hypothesis is an assumption that needs to be proven correct or incorrect. You then design experimentations that are going to challenge the assumption.

The results of the experimentations makes the correctness or incorrectness of the hypothesisclear allowing us to make judgments about its validity.

In the lean startup methodology, your job as an entrepreneur is to formulate two hypothesis:

  • hypothesis of value (assumptions about your value proposition)
  • hypothesis of growth (assumptions about the effectiveness of the growth strategy)

These hypothesis are then validated/invalidated through experimentation. Following the precepts of lean manufacturing, the lean startup methodology prescribes to make experimentations while minimizing/eliminating waste.

In other words, you have to burn minimum cash, effort and time when running experiments.

An experimentation in the lean startup sense is usually an actual product/service and helps startups in early stage learn invaluable things about their eventual future market.

Sometimes startups learn that nobody wants their product/service, imagine spending 8 months worth of engineering, design and promotion work (not to mention cash) in a product/service only to discover that it does not provide value to anyone.

Minimum Viable Products And Feedback

As we pointed out earlier, an experimentation can be an actual product or service and is called the minimum viable product(MVP).

The MVP is built to contain just enough features to validate the value and growth hypotheses, effectively requiring minimum time, effort and cash.

By getting the MVP launched and in front of real users, entrepreneurs can get concrete feedback from them either directly by asking them (in focus groups for example) or via usage analytics.

Analytics scales better then directly talking to customers but the latter is nonetheless used to cross validate results from the former.

It is crucial to focus on metrics that creates fine grained visibility about the performance of the business when building(or using) a usage analytics system. These metrics are called actionable metrics because they can link causes and effects clearly allowing entrepreneurs to understand the consequences of ideally each action executed. Cohort analysis is an example of a analytics strategy that focuses on actionable metrics.

The bad kind of metrics are called vanity metrics, these tend to hide how the business is performing, gross numbers like total users count are an example of vanity metrics.

The author cites several examples of different startups that managed to validate or debunk their early assumption by building stripped down and non scalable MVPs and even sometimes by not building software at all.

You would be surprised to hear for example how the Dropbox folks in their early stage managed to created a ~4 minute video demonstrating their product while it was still in development. The video allowed them to get more people signed up in their beta waiting list and raise capital more easily.

Closing Thoughts

In the first two parts of the book, the author talks also about how employees inside big companies working on highly innovative products and services can benefit greatly from the lean startup approach, although very interesting this is not very useful for me right now.

The third part, talks about the challenges that arises when the startup gets big and starts to stabilize and how to address them. Basically it revolves around not loosing the innovative spirit of the early days, again, this is not very useful for me so maybe for good future reading.


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How to Create Buzz around Your Startup Idea



Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.

– Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO

There is something very exciting starting up a business. Startups offer you a chance to do something fresh and take new ideas to the public. But if you’re going to succeed, you need to get it right from the very start of the journey. Creating buzz around your startup’s launch is possible, and here are some ideas to help you do it.

Blog About Your Startup Journey

This is a great thing to do if you want to create a personable and refreshing brand image. People like to see how your business is doing and how it grows from an idea into a fully fledged business. Blog about what you’re doing and how your business is expanding. If you can develop an audience of readers ahead of your startup’s official launch, it will be easier for you to hit the ground running. You can then make the blog the voice of the company as it grows and starts to turn a profit. This is something that you should think very carefully about when starting up a business.

Make Plenty of Announcements

You should try to make a lot of announcements when you are leading up to the launch of your startup. There are plenty of people out there that will be interested in hearing about what you’re doing. You need to start by creating a strong presence on all the key social media sites. If you can do this, you will build up an audience that will then be receptive to your messages. They will also be there to spread the word and share announcements with their friends on social media platforms. This can be hugely important when you’re trying to raise brand awareness and expose your announcements to as many people as possible.

Organize an Event and Invite People

Organizing a real event that people can turn up to and attend can be a great idea. It makes your startup’s official launch feel more real. If you just set a random date for the launch and don’t mark it in any way, it will be much more difficult to create a buzz. Hire a stage, sound system and find bleacher rentals to host the event. Then you can write a speech and make a plan for the schedule of the launch. If you can do this well, you will create a lot of buzz, and maybe get some more coverage for the startup too.

Reach Out to People Who Can Give You Publicity

There are plenty of people out there that might be able to help you achieve the publicity and coverage you crave. When your business is being talked about, people will hear about your brand and what it’s doing. So, you need to make sure that you reach out to many people in the press, the media and the blogosphere who can help you. There are many business magazines and websites that write profiles of new business and young entrepreneurs. If you can contact some of these people, they might be interested in offering you some coverage. Don’t underestimate how important this could be. Hopefully these ideas will help you with starting up a business.


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This article was produced by SolVibrations is a multi-author self improvement blog, aiming to inspire creativity within.

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