When there are discussions of strategy, it is often presented as having some ideal plan of action, without regard to who will carry it out. Like, do this and you’re guaranteed a reward. Maybe in primitive games like Jenga or Tic-tac-toe, there really is only one right way. But in complex games like business, politics, or sports, the strategy must take into account the participant’s personality and, broadly speaking, his resource. This is often forgotten after reading some clever books or taking an MBA course.
Legendary trainer John Danaher explained it this way: “There are two broad ways you can go in jiujitsu — you can either focus on promoting your own movement to create opportunity or by restricting the other person’s movement. If you are a slower, less athletic opponent, then you should definitely focus on the ideas of restricting the other fellow’s movement. That’s how slow unathletic people win in jiujitsu. If you are quick with the ability to change the direction and stand up quickly, go down quickly and move like a leopard, then you are almost always better off generate movement in order to create opportunity. So one is based more on movement as a source of opportunity, one is based more on pressure as a source of opportunity.” John’s two students, Garry Tonon and Gordon Ryan, who dominate the grappling Olympus, illustrate the difference of such different strategies as best they can.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, investor or CEO, I suggest you try John’s insight on yourself. If speed is your middle name, you’re bursting with excess vitality, and you feel like a pike in a river in the chaos, then yanking the competition, or even shaking up a market segment, is the winningest strategy. While others are snapping their beaks in the confusion, you’ll have time to rip and cash out the super prize. But if your tag cloud is systematic, judicious and controlling, then your strategic priority is to deprive your opponent of mobility, nullifying his degrees of freedom. In combat, this is accomplished by creating an asymmetrical advantage through knowledge of human anatomy, angles of attack, leverage mechanics, etc., to which the adversary is forced to respond reactively by falling into the traps-dilemmas you set. Similarly, in business, you create a systemic premise in which any choice your opponent makes only strengthens your position, one way or another.
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