Chapter 4. Speed, Simplicity, and Boldness

Business is certainly not war; business is about creation whereas war is about destruction. Business happens when we find constructive ways to meet our needs; war happens when we do not. Yet there are useful analogies and lessons to be learned about responsiveness and agility from military experience.

Sometimes people in the military are forced to learn lessons faster than people in business because the consequences of failure in combat are so severe. And military organizations all over the world have learned that strategies and tactics emphasizing the use of responsiveness and agility deliver the best results at the lowest cost in casualties and destruction. In this chapter we will take a look at some of the approaches they have found to be effective in situations analogous to situations that businesses encounter.


In any discussion of military strategy, one book in particular often comes up as a source for concepts and ideas. This book, written in China about 2,500 years ago by a Taoist philosopher named Sun Tzu, is called The Art of War.[17] It is not so much a book about war as it is a book about the art of competition and collaboration—whether in business, politics, the military, or even sports. This book has become required reading in the officer training programs of many of the world's military organizations (and it can also be found on reading lists at many fine business schools).

Sun Tzu's book embodies ...

Get Business Agility: Sustainable Prosperity in a Relentlessly Competitive World now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.