Sun Tzu and the Art of Business Book Summary - Sun Tzu and the Art of Business Book explained in key points
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Sun Tzu and the Art of Business summary

Mark R. McNeilly

Six Strategic Principles for Managers

4.5 (297 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

Sun Tzu and the Art of Business by Mark R. McNeilly shows how the timeless principles of Sun Tzu's Art of War can be applied to modern business strategy. It offers valuable insights into competitive advantage and leadership tactics.

Table of Contents

    Sun Tzu and the Art of Business
    Summary of 6 key ideas

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    Capture your enemy’s territory but don’t destroy it in the process.

    What does the ancient philosophy of Sun Tzu have to do with building a successful business? Before we answer that question, we need to decide what success even means.

    Broadly speaking, Western culture defines a successful business as one that gives shareholders a return on their investment. Asian culture, on the other hand, generally views a successful business as one that provides people with employment.

    But before a business can achieve either of these aims, it needs to be surviving and prospering. These are your fundamental goals as a business leader – and they’re exactly what Sun Tzu’s strategic principles will help you achieve.

    The key message here is: Capture your enemy’s territory but don’t destroy it in the process.

    In The Art of War, Sun Tzu instructs his readers to “take All-under-heaven intact.” This means that military leaders should seize control of everything their enemies have, without damaging these assets.

    In business, “take All-under-heaven” means you should aim for market dominance, by controlling a larger share of your market than any of your competitors. Market dominance is so crucial because it usually means profit. Businesses which dominate the market benefit from improved economies of scale, increased customer loyalty, and higher revenues. This all adds up to a bigger bottom line.

    Now, Sun Tzu’s principle isn’t just to “take All-under-heaven,” but to take it intact. Applied to business, this means you shouldn’t destroy or damage the market you’re seeking to dominate. After all, damaging a market usually means draining it of its profitability. For a clear example of this, look no further than global tobacco firm Philip Morris.

    In 1993, Philip Morris’s Marlboro cigarettes was one of the most profitable brands in the world. But the company was facing a problem. Rival discount brands were selling their cigarettes cheaper, and gradually taking market share away from Marlboro.

    Philip Morris decided to take blunt, aggressive action. It took the fight to the discount brands and dropped the price of Marlboros by 20 percent. But the discount brands struck back by dropping their prices even further. Soon the whole industry was losing money – including the Marlboro brand.

    Philip Morris continued to be a major player, but it had ignored Sun Tzu’s advice. The company may well have been dominating the market, but it was now a sick and unprofitable one.

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    What is Sun Tzu and the Art of Business about?

    Sun Tzu and the Art of Business (1996) explains how ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu’s classic text The Art of War applies to the hyper-competitive environment of modern business. These blinks explore how business leaders can integrate Sun Tzu’s battle strategies into their own plans for market domination.

    Sun Tzu and the Art of Business Review

    Sun Tzu and the Art of Business (2011) is a captivating exploration of how Sun Tzu's ancient military strategies can be applied to modern business challenges. Here's what makes this book worth reading:

    • By translating Sun Tzu's military tactics into practical business advice, it provides readers with a unique perspective on strategic decision-making.
    • Through a combination of real-life examples and historical anecdotes, the book illustrates how Sun Tzu's principles can be successfully implemented in today's corporate world.
    • With its thought-provoking insights on leadership, competition, and negotiation, it keeps readers engaged and inspired, ensuring that the book is far from boring.

    Best quote from Sun Tzu and the Art of Business

    Even a lion doesnt go after the fastest antelope in the herd. – Sun Tzu

    —Mark R. McNeilly
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    Who should read Sun Tzu and the Art of Business?

    • Entrepreneurs hoping to disrupt their industry
    • Strategy consultants wanting a new angle
    • Business students looking for fresh insights

    About the Author

    Mark R. McNeilly is an author, academic, and business executive. He’s currently a professor of marketing at the University of North Carolina and has previously worked with IBM and Lenovo.

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    Sun Tzu and the Art of Business FAQs 

    What is the main message of Sun Tzu and the Art of Business?

    Sun Tzu and the Art of Business provides strategic insights for achieving success in business by applying the principles of Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War.'

    How long does it take to read Sun Tzu and the Art of Business?

    The reading time for Sun Tzu and the Art of Business varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in a matter of minutes.

    Is Sun Tzu and the Art of Business a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Sun Tzu and the Art of Business is a valuable read for anyone in the business world. It offers practical strategies and timeless wisdom for achieving success.

    Who is the author of Sun Tzu and the Art of Business?

    The author of Sun Tzu and the Art of Business is Mark R. McNeilly.

    What to read after Sun Tzu and the Art of Business?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Sun Tzu and the Art of Business, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Blue Ocean Shift by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
    • The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene
    • A Theory of Justice by John Rawls
    • Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson
    • The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill