Some of you might have heard of Sun Tzu's "Art of War," which is used as a training material for corporate management programs. In this issue, I will interpret the chapter "Use of Spies," which he says is the most important part of his book from business point of view.
Use of Spies
First, I will give a brief explanation of "Use of Spies" in terms of running a business. This is about to conducting espionage to get information about what competitors are up to, e.g., what the next product will be, what contract are they signing, etc. Then, the next step is to sabotage or interfere with their plan. For example, if your competitor is making a deal with some company, find out the details and snatch the deal by offering better terms. My first impression was that this was a really nasty tactic, but in a real war, you will lose if you play fair.
Of course, corporate espionage is illegal. But you can still gather crucial information within the legal limits of snooping. One high-impact example is Microsoft. When Microsoft was contacted by IBM about an OS deal, Microsoft did not have its own OS. However, Microsoft knew a company that had an OS and IBM did not know about it. Microsoft bought the OS from that company and sold it to IBM as "DOS." The rest is history. Microsoft did not use any secret operative to find out that information. They just kept a close eye on who had what kinds of products.
This tactic is more about the use of information than eavesdropping. In the Microsoft example, there were two key pieces of information: "IBM was looking for OS" and "there was a company that had one." When you look at these elements of information separately, they are nothing special. However, as soon as you put them together, you see a very interesting scenario. A scenario involving only two elements of information is a highly simplified example. In the real world, you will need to gather lots of information to have a strategic advantage. The more information you use, the better chance of success your plan will have. Pay attention to what you see and what you hear.
© February, 2012