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The Art of the Advantage

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The Art of the Advantage

36 Strategies to Seize the Competitive Edge

Thomson Texere,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

The time-tested strategies of the Chinese classic, The 36 Stratagems, light the path to long-term business victories.

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Editorial Rating



  • Applicable


Author Kaihan Krippendorff, an expert on Sun Tzu and Chinese military strategy, applies the Chinese classic The 36 Stratagems to modern business thinking. Individually, the stratagems are rarely a revelation - the case studies show that many corporations already utilize them - but the larger point, that Eastern or Taoist thinking offers new options for the Western business strategist, is very useful and offers a real paradigm shift. Some of the stratagems need more discussion, and the connection between some stratagems and their accompanying case studies is shaky, but this is an excellent introduction to a neglected classic. Its strategies (an ethical minefield if you take them too literally) are not limited to battlefields or businesses. getAbstract recommends this book to business strategists, policymakers and those struggling with competition. It is also valuable for anyone working in or facing competition from East Asia, where these stratagems are already well known and widely used.


The Venerable 36 Stratagems

The Western business world has neglected The 36 Stratagems, a masterwork of Chinese strategic thinking from the Warring States period. Developed by multiple authors over a 1,000 year span, it distills strategic thinking to just 36, sometimes contradictory aphorisms that are subject to creative interpretation. Choose which ones to apply to your strategy. The stratagems – shown below with titles translated from the original Chinese text – challenge the Western, direct approach in favor of a more indirect approach. The philosophy of Lao Tzu, Taoism’s founder, emphasizes looking for patterns you can use to understand and influence your environment. These stratagems can be divided into four groups, each illustrating a Taoist "law" that is fundamentally different from Western thinking: Yin Yang, which means polarity; Wu Wei, yielding or going "with the grain;" Wu Chang, continuous change and Shang Bing Wu Bing, indirect action.

Yin Yang: Polarity Western thought embraces the good and banishes the bad, but Taoist thought says all "opposites" are flip sides of each other, each...

About the Author

A longtime student of Eastern philosophy, Kaihan Krippendorff earned his M.B.A at Columbia University and a bachelors in finance and engineering from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Wharton Business School. He has worked at McKinsey & Company, Deloitte Consulting, Matsumoto Group and Calhoun Baker.

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