To better understand the art of strategy, consider studying the ancient Chinese game of go, write Grishin and Emelyanov in a new translation of their Russian work.
Unlike chess, the goal of go, the enigmatic game of black and white stones, isn’t to annihilate your opponent but to capture and develop territory by placing stones on a board. Victory lies in controlling space and the positioning of resources—ideas the authors contend are valuable in geopolitics, business and even one’s personal life. After all, “territory” is just another word for “market share,” as Japanese auto executives shrewdly demonstrated, the authors say, when they invaded the American car market in the 1970s. Using go as a visual model of strategy, Grishin and Emelyanov advance nine “elegant solutions” to problems common in competitive environments. Their solutions are based on strategic concepts long studied by Eastern leaders: clarification, alternatives, hidden resources, superfluity, exchanges, indirect fighting, superiority, forcing and surviving trouble. As in Sun Tzu’s Art of War and martial arts like judo, the authors advocate outthinking an adversary rather than outmuscling him. While not the first writers to expound the mysteries of go, Grishin and Emelyanov have a talent for expressing their insights with graceful maxims that are easy to grasp. Their use of real-world examples from history and business make the principles behind a 2,500-year-old game seem timeless. Whether it’s legendary Chinese statesman Zhuge Liang in the third century or billionaire George Soros’ currency speculation in the 1990s, a crafty strategist possesses an almost magical ability to come out on top. As to be expected, the book contains numerous diagrams of games of go in progress. Those unfamiliar with the game will need extra perseverance, but the reward is a deeper understanding of efficiency, timing and influence. The authors concede that go cannot capture all the complexities of real situations; instead, they say the game and their nine solutions should be viewed as tools for attaining mastery over oneself and the environment—the highest aspiration of strategic art.
Wise reading for policymakers, executives, entrepreneurs—anyone who seeks to survive and thrive in the crucible that is competition.