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Applying The Art of War to Business Strategy

Info: 8095 words (32 pages) Dissertation
Published: 1st Nov 2021

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Tagged: Business Strategy


Sun Tzu had another name, Sun Wu. He was born in the Warring State period. There were over 150 states fighting for power until only thirteen major states survived. However, only seven states had more superior army and resource. He was living between 544 and 496 BC (near the end of the spring and autumn Warring State period). (Sheetz-Runkle, 2014) Sun Tzu was a famous philosopher and military strategist in ancient China. He is believed as the author of The Art of War. The Art of War influenced not only Chinese but also eastern Asian’s military. The Art of War firstly impact the Western countries when a Jesuit missionary translated it into French at the end of 18th century. The first time when the book was translated into English in 1905. It became a best-seller in 2001 after the television mobster Tony Soprano said he had been reading this book and the book become more popular that Oxford University had to print 25,000 more copies. There are thirteen chapters in this book which had specific batter strategies. It presents the basic principles and gives the military leaders advise how and when to fight. Even the communist leader Mao Zedong used the strategies in The Art of War to defeat Jiang Jieshi’s Nationalist forces during the Chinese Civil War in the twentieth century. The Art of War was used in other areas. For example, the lawyer used the strategy to win trials. (History.com, 2018)

In the 1960s, Japan introduced The Art of War into business management. The chairman of Japan’s Mackenzie Corporation – Maki Kenichi, he wrote a book named “The Impact of Sun Tzu on Japan’s Business Management. He stated in this book that the reason why Japanese companies can defeat European was Japan used Chinese military method to run their business management. Those methods were more reasonable and effective than American business management strategies. He quoted widely of The Art of War in his book “The Strategist’s mind”. He stated that The Art of War was the highest management textbook for the Japanese companies. George who is a well-known American managerialist said in “The History of Management Thought”, read The Art of War if you want to be a managerial talent. (wordpress.com, n.d.) Chou-Hou Wee wrote a research report to compare strategies in The Art of War with Western famous SWOT strategy.

There are many famous quotations in The Art of War. The most popular quotation used in Chinese daily life – “if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will always win in hundred fights”. (知己知彼,百战不殆) The left sentence is if you only know yourself, but not your enemies, you may win or lose; if you do not know yourself, then you will always lose your war. (不知彼而知己,一胜一负;不知彼,不知己,每战必殆) The following quotation can be used in both military and business competition: all warfare is relying on deception. So when we have the ability to attach, we must attend to be unable; when we prepare to use our forces, we need to appear inactive; when we are nearby, we must pretend we are far away; when we are far away, we must make the enemy believe we are near. (兵者, 诡道也。故能而示之不能,用而示之不用,近而示之远,远而示之近。) The advantages gain from weather are better to those from terrain, and the advantages gain from terrain are better for those from winning the harmonious support of the people. (天时不如地利,地利不如人和。)

I will use quantitative rather than qualitative research method in my research report. The reason is qualitative research method need more time and data than quantitative research methods. I will use case study method to analyze how companies use strategies of Sun Tzu Art of War to compete with their arrivals.

The research question of this report is how to apply the strategies of The Art of War in the Modern business. The purpose of my research report is that it is very meaningful and useful. As a Chinese student, it is very proud to use more than my ancient intelligence which is more than 2500 years in the modern business strategies. So it is very meaningful. In another side, it is really useful strategies to apply in business management. For example, there are many strategies can guide the company leaders how to manage their company resources and how to compete with their arrivers with the right time and right methods.

Literature review

Mark McNeilly specified six principles of The Art of War in the business

Capture your market without destroying it. Sun Tzu held the opinion that the best policy in the war was to take a state intact. The acme of skill was to subdue the enemy without fighting rather than to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles. Sun Zi summarized this strategy as “win all without fighting”. It is a very effective strategy if used in the business competition. The reason is the business’s goal is to survive and more prosper, so you must capture your own market by the way of using subtle or low-key approach without drawing your competitors’ attention or response. The most aggressive way to capture market is to play the price-war, because there is research shows the price-war is most fast and aggressive way to draw your competitors’ attention and response, in addition, it also ruins the market with draining the profits.

Avoid your competitors’ strength and attack their weakness. Sun Zi Said an army should avoid strength and strikes weakness. It was like the water, avoiding the heights and hastens to the lowlands. Hence, the company should avoid directly attach their competitors’ strong point instead they should attack their competitors’ weakness. The reason is it is very costly if you attack your competitors’ strength. In the contrast, you should concentrate on attacking your competitors’ weakness. You can either maximize your gain or minimize your resources in this way. (Mark, n.d.)Use deception and foreknowledge to maximize the power of your business intelligence. Sun Zi said, “know yourself and your enemy, you will win in hundred war.” It is very important for a company to know the depth of your competitors’ strength, weakness, strategies, thoughts and goals and also your own strengths and weakness. It is also necessary for the company to understand the industry’s overall trend in order to know how to battle. (Mark, n.d.)

Business should use speed and preparation contingency to overcome the competition. Sun Zi held that it was the greatest of virtues is to be prepared beforehand for any contingency. The speed does not means do things hastily. In fact, the speed needs much preparation. The speed is important especially in the high technology industry such as digital equipment industry. It can easily win the competition if this kind of industry reduces time to make the decision, develop new technology. (Mark, n.d.)

The company can use strategy control points and alliances in the industry to “shape” your competitors and make them consistent with your will. The meaning of “shape” your competitors is to change the rule of competition and make your competitors conform to your actions and desires. There are two ways can “shape” your competitors. First, using alliances to limit your competitors’ ability of movement. Second, you will take the initial position if you control key strategic points in your industry. (Mark, n.d.)

Develop your character as a leader to maximize the potential of your employees. Sun Zi stated that the army will serve the leader with happiness if the leader threats their people with benevolence, justice, and righteousness. Sun Zi describes many kinds of preferred leaders such as wise, humane, sincere, courageous and strict. And leaders also need to put their needs behind their troops. (Mark, n.d.)

The Art of War and SWOT analysis

Philip Kotler who is marketing master in the United States discussed the application of the art of warfare in marketing in his book “Marketing Management”. There is SWOT strategy in the modern business management strategy. SWOT means strength, weakness, opportunity, and threats. John Alley who is American scholar taught economics in China. He links SWOT with the chapter Truth in the Art of War. He stated that the sub-reality of and the effect of realizing false results in the Art of War is similar to SWOT analysis. SWOT analysis is one of the most popular methods in the marketing management strategies. The method analysis company’s weakness and strengths, and also the opportunity and threats from the market. The point of SWOT method how to use own strength to look for opportunity is similar with the view in Sun Tzu’s Art of War. John also wrote an article named “Sun Tzu’s seven-character strategy- how can marketing manager apply Sun Tzu’s Art of War.” He pointed in his article that even though The Art of War is very old, it still can be plan or guide in the future. (wordpress.com, n.d.)

Chou-Hou Wee who is the professor of Nanyang Technological University published an article named “Sun Zi Art of War and SWOT analysis: Perspectives and Applications to Business”. He analyzed the similar strategy of Sun Zi’s Art of War and SWOT method. The quotation in Sun Zi Art of War: “know yourself and another side (enemy), you will always win the war. (知己知彼,百战不殆) Sun Zi emphasized how important to know both yourself and another side (your enemy)’s strength and weakness in the war. It is the core issue to decide whether the war will win. The terrain and weather are also important in the war. In the other side, they are just like the business’ macro environment. We always consider the weather or business environment in business. The reason why we need to understand the business weather and terrain is that it is the way to find the opportunities and threats. The modern strategic management- SWOT analysis is that understanding the strengths, weakness, opportunity, and threats which is very similar to the Sun Zi’s view. (Wee, 2002)

Sun Zi emphasized that knowing yourself and the other side (enemy) should be before knowing weather and terrain. It is obvious that there is less possible to win the war if your army’s ability is much weaker than the other side (enemy). Even though your army has the good situation of weather and terrain, if your army is too weak, it is difficult to win the war. It is similar in business, the small firm is extremely difficult to compete with the large corporation if they sale same product or provide the same service. The reason is the large corporation always have many advantages such as large economy scale. This is why the small and medium firms will be firstly affected by the economic downturn period. In the 1980s, when China first opened up to the outside world, many local firms could not compete with foreign multinational firms. Even though Chinese local firms were familiar with local business climate and the market situation (terrain), Chinese local firm still could not compete with foreign multinational firms’ superior products and services into the Chinese market. In the early 1980s, Tsingtao Beer could not compete with the foreign brands such as Budweiser and Heineken. Tsingtao had a large domestic share and understood the local market, but still was difficult to compete against foreign brands. The reason was there were a few local competitors before foreign brands came into the Chinese market. Tsingtao though their products were good enough. Tsingtao tried to understand and analyzed products, market and business strategies. And they tried to improve their products, packages, advertising and market strategies. They even took over some of the foreign breweries when they increased their market shares with the effect from the 2000s. (Wee, 2002)

Sun Zi also emphasized how important to know the other side (enemy) before yourself is. Wee analyzed firms should know your competitors’ resource and capability, but not stop in just assessing their strengths and weakness relative to yours. You need to understand the disposition of the other party, especially their competitors. If firms concentrate on the competitive forces, they will be pushed to be more responsive, adaptive and flexible. It is very important for firms to change management and learn how to adapt to changes. In the other side, to know the other side before you could let you avoid your competitors’ strength, even though you are weak, you may still win in business. The 1950s and 1960s’ Japanese manufacturers are good examples of using this strategy. After World War II, the Japanese economic become weak, it was extremely difficult for Japanese manufacturers to compete with large western business firms. So the Japanese manufacturers chose the market which western industries were ignored. The western manufacturers were good at making the big models of cars, applications, motorcycle, etc., but they were weak at making the smaller model. Japanese manufacturers avoided western manufacturers’ strength and chose to make smaller models of cars, motorcycles, applications, etc. Japanese products were cheaper and better quality in the 1960s and also early 1970s. The western manufacturers focused on their local western market and ignored the Southeast Asian market in the 1960s and 1970s. The Japanese manufacturers were opposed to the Western. They concentrated their effort on the Southeast Asian and other Asian markets with their cheap and still good quality products. As Japanese manufacturers’ competitors focused on the big model ranges of products and different market, they got plenty of time to improve their products quality substantially. Japanese products are well known for their superior quality. So it is not surprising Japanese products have the ability to command high prices. (Wee, 2002)

Sun Zi stated that we should know the weather before terrain. The reason is the weather is changing and dynamic, but the terrain is fixed and stable. It is the same in the business. It is difficult to predict the business weather, but the physical or infrastructure factors (terrain) are fixed and stable in long run. A country may enact laws or economic policies to attract foreign investment quickly, then the local business will be affected.

In summary of Chou Hou Wee’s analysis of Sun Zi’s Art of War and SWOT method. It is important for firms to know both yours and your competitors’ strength and weakness, opportunity, and threats (weather). However, to know your competitors and you should before weather and terrain; to know your competitors should before you; to know the weather should before terrain. (Wee, 2002)

Sun Zi’s Art of War applied to small business

Becky Sheetz-Runkle who described himself as a history enthusiast, small business practitioner, lifelong martial artist. He thought fight war just like doing business. He wrote a book described how Sun Zi’s Art of war could be applied to small business and win the competition. He divided the book into four parts: seize the advantage with Sun Tzu, Understanding essential Sun Tzu, Principles for the battlefield and advanced Sun Tzu: the strategy for your small business. Becky thought Sun Tzu provided a guide for him to identify and seize the opportunity and gain advantage condition of every opportunity. The central and enduring theme of Sun Tzu is using the small force to overtake a larger one. In other words, the small business can use Sun Tzu’s theme to compete with a large organization. Small business should use cost-effective strategy to compete with their competitors who have large budgets. Becky took Chobani for example. Chobani used the shiny label and extra-large cup mold to make their yogurt standing out compared with other brands’. Becky analyzed both advantages and disadvantages of small and big business, he concluded that most small business has little or even no strategy, but in his opinion, small business needs Sun Tzu with a real-world strategic plan to gain their marketplace. (Sheetz-Runkle, 2014)

In the second part: understanding essential Sun Tzu, Becky emphasized the importance of understanding yourself. To have full and complete knowledge about yourself is the fundamental of Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Do not make the wrong assumption about yourself. The reason is when small business leaders do not have the full understanding of their business or their products or services, the leaders might pass the wrong ideas or strategies into the whole team. Small business also needs to identify their opportunity, not everything is “opportunity”. It is dangerous if the small business accepts the “opportunity” does not match to their organization’s goals and objectives, even exceed their capability. Business leaders also need to know how to compensate their weakness with strength. Becky took Atari for example. Nolan Bushnell who is Atari’s co-founder. Nolan knew his team needs to be a cross-trained and well-round team. His team’s weakness was the B2B engineers have no substantive knowledge about their customers’ needs. So he sent his engineer into the trenches to share the experience of customers and distributors. Atari also sent their engineers to the assembly line in order to let engineer design their products could be most easily manufactured. The example told us there was more possible to overcome your weakness if you evaluate yourself honestly and understand your weakness. Small business leaders also need to understand their marketplace and their employees so that they could know their ability to compete with their arrivals. Sun Tzu encouraged leaders to share fruit with their army in order to incentive their army which was same with business. Business leaders should build incentive system to encourage their people to work with more effort.

Sun Tzu also emphasized it is also very important to understand your enemy.

Business should create conditions to win. (Sheetz-Runkle, 2014)

There are some strategies could be used to defeat your competitor. First of all, we should identify adversaries. You should identify either the competitor you know or the one you do not know. Second, you should create opportunities to defeat your enemy. And then encourage your enemy’s weakness. You should know how to attack your enemy’s weakness and avoid their strength which is central them of Sun Zi. You should choose the right time to attack your enemy. (Sheetz-Runkle, 2014)

Part 3: principles for the battlefield. This part focus on describing what small business leaders should do? The small business leader should know how to maximize resources. The wise strategy is to win without battle. The small business leader should use their limited resource to defeat with the larger budget organization. Use low-budget advertisement, market option or social media to influence customers’ decision. Small business should not use their smaller, weaker forces fight the toe-to-toe larger enemy. Provide the right resource to their employees. Business leaders should listen to their people and understand what their people need. The leaders should leverage experience. When they come to the area they are not familiar with, they should work the expert who already is the profession in that area. Business leaders also need to overcome their anger and have perfect patience. (Sheetz-Runkle, 2014)

The final part: advanced Sun Tzu: Strategy for your small business. The first two strategies already mentioned: fighting without battle, attack enemy’s weakness and avoid strength. Small business can poke your competitors to see what they will do. Business can use your adversary with the feint to test your competitor’s strength and how your competitor react. Small business should use their strength that moves with speed. Move fast can let small business could create more possibility to catch opportunity and market shares. However, speed is not the only thing, business should aware with their agility and responsiveness. Small business needs to catch the right timing. Sun Zi stated that attack your enemy before they prepared and appear where they are not expected. Small business should take the best position. The business leaders should make friends as possible as they can. It is better to create royal associates or friends and develop the exclusive relationship, in order to let the performers provide services or supplies to your competitors. (Sheetz-Runkle, 2014)

Using Sun Zi’s Art of War understand KFC’s succeed. KFC used the target market strategy to enter the Chinese market. Their target customers are young people and children. They adjusted their products and advertisement to attract their target customers. (wenku1, n.d.)

The first strategy, market segmentation—take what they love. Sun Zi stated, “first take what they love, then listen to them.” (先多其所爱,则听矣—九地篇) It is very important for the business to know customer needs in market strategy. There are different customers with different needs, so business should do the market segmentation first, then to find the common characteristics for each segment, finally develop the products and market mix based on each segment. KFC make market segment based on their customers’ age, psychology, and income and make the different market strategy.

For example, KFC provides children’s entertainment facility. They also celebrate the birthday for children. They even designed cute carton gift “kiki” for Asian kids. The waitress dresses up like “kiki” to attract children. (wenku1, n.d.)

Second strategy—target market choice. KFC’s target market is young people and children, they hope to impact other group consumers through the influence of young people and children. The launch of the family meal bucket is the typical example of their strategy. (wenku1, n.d.)

Third strategy—market position. Consumers only have a deep memory of important information. KFC’s market position is “the world’s chicken expert” which is different from McDonald’s fag products—beef. This market position makes the consumer have a clear concept: the delicious chicken all in KFC. (wenku1, n.d.)

KFC’s 4p market strategy: product, price, place and promotion

First, product strategy:

Product creativity—surprise wins then can fight with the enemy. (出奇制胜,敌则能战之—谋攻篇) It means if your competition level is equal to your arrival, then you should use strategy to defeat your arrival. As we known, McDonald and KFC have similar competition level and the same type of customers. The demand of consumer is variable and diverse, which means the consumer could be attracted by new things. So business should develop new products and leads the consumer trends with positive adapting. McDonald’s menu was much simpler than KFC’s. There were more than 11,000 KFC opened in more than 90 countries and regions with more than 400 types of food, from Beijing Chicken to Japanese Salmon sandwiches.

Product localization—adapting to local condition. “Water flows from the ground and soldiers make the battle because of the enemy.” (水因地而制流,兵因敌而制胜—虚实篇) It means water is constrained its flow because of the height of terrain, and the use of troop based on the situation of the enemy to decide its winning policy. When applying Sun Zi’s strategy in market strategy, business should improve their original products based on the local situation. KFC improve their products based on the local food culture, such as soup and porridge and rice in Chinese KFC. (wenku1, n.d.)

Second, price strategy—to lure it. Induce and benefit it. (利而诱之—始计篇). It means when the opposite is greedy for snobbery, we use small profits to lure him. KFC’s price strategy is generally adopted combination pricing. They combine main meals with sides and drinks and also vouchers to reduce the price. The lower price to achieve the promotion target, on the other side, the combined price also improve the order speed. The typical examples are the premium package, breakfast discount, and the family meal basket.

Third, place (distribution) strategy—attach when they are unready. “Attack when they are unready and unexpected.” (攻其不备,出其不意。–始计篇). It means when attack your enemy when they are unready, take action when they unexpected. Both KFC and McDonald‘s distribution channels are franchise currently. However, there is more KFC restaurant than McDonald’s. The main reason is KFC used special franchise method when McDonald used normal franchise method, so KFC could rapidly cover the market.

Fourth, promotion strategy. Culture marketing—win without war. (不战而胜) KFC did not fight directly with McDonald. They won the majority of Chinese customers’ heart. The typical example was that KFC used the traditional buildings such as the Great Wall and courtyard as renovation style for their restaurants. (wenku1, n.d.)

There are many strategies in Sun Zi’s Art of War could be used in the business. It is one best book for business leaders to read. Even though The Art of War has more than 2500 years of history, it still can be seen as a wisdom and smart book. Even some famous university use Sun Zi’s Art of War as MBA students’ textbook. We should use Sun Tzu’s strategy very carefully when apply in the modern business. Although it is a famous and wise book, it already has more than 2500 years and it was written based on the special period in Sun Zi’s living environment. So it might be very different from modern society and environment.


There are two broad research methods: quantitative and qualitative method. I will introduce the definition, process, advantaged and limitation of quantitative and qualitative research methods. I will choose qualitative research methods and case study method to collect my secondary data. (Statistics how to, n.d.)

Quantitative research method

1) Definition

Quantitation research is based on collecting and analyzing data to explain some phenomena. The quantitative research method is choosing samples to make generalizations or predict about a population. (Statistics how to, n.d.)

Some questions of samples can be easily answered. For examples, how many females work for your company? What is the percentage of the female in the IT profession? Was the rate of migration increasing in the past ten years? However, some of the questions cannot be answered in a numerical way. For example, what is the primary school students’ comments for their teachers? What is Maori females’ opinion of tobacco policy in New Zealand? Even though these question cannot be quantifiable immediately, we can transfer them into quantifiable questions by coding them, such as 1. Strongly agree. 2. Agree. 3. No opinion. 4. Disagree. 5. Strongly disagree. (Statistics how to, n.d.)

There are three crucial elements of quantitative research methods: research design, choice of data collection instrument and choice of the analysis tool. The research design can be descriptive or experimental. The large size of samples may always use descriptive design. It is the measurement between two variable – independent and dependent variables. The subjects are always only measured once. However, the experimental design is a contrast with the descriptive design. Normally, the experimental design is used when the sample size is small and the subjects are measured before and after a treatment and measured causality. (Statistics how to, n.d.)

2) The strengths of quantitative research

  • Quantitative research data collection and analysis comes from large sample sizes. It often makes the conclusion from quantitative research more generalizable.
  • Quantitative research uses statistical methods which means the analysis is more reliable.
  • The systematic, standardized comparisons are needed for the appropriate situation. (University of Lancaster, n.d.)

3) Limitation of using the quantitative research method

  • There is a risk of improper representation of the target population: the improper representation of target might lead the researcher the wrong way to achieve its desired aims or objectives. Even though they have applied appropriate sampling plan representation of the subjects which are dependent on the probability distribution of observed data. This may result in the wrong calculation of probability distribution and the proposition wrong.
  • Lack of resources for data collection: the quantitative research always needs a large number of sample size. However, in many cases, it is become impossible due to the lack of resources of this large-scale research. In some developing countries, interesting countries such as government organizations, public service providers they may lack knowledge especially the knowledge how to conduct resource through quantitative research.
  • The researchers cannot be able to control the environment: sometimes, the researcher cannot control the environment where the respondents provide the answers to the survey questions. The reason is the responses always depend on the particular time. And the particular time depends on the conditions happening in the particular time frame.
  • The quantitative research’s outcome is limited: the quantitative research method has structured questionnaire with close-ended questions, which result in the limited outcomes in the research proposal. That is why the results cannot stand for the actual occulting or in a generalized form. And the close-ended questions limit the respondents to provide their answers.
  • It is expensive and time-consuming. Quantitative research is difficult and expensive. It needs a long time to collect and analyze data. It is planned carefully in order to complete randomization and correct designation of controls group. So there are needs for the large population of respondents to represent the target population. In order to achieve in-depth responses, the data collection in quantitative research is much more expensive then qualitative approach.
  • It is difficult in data analysis. It is difficult for non-statistical background researchers to perform the quantitative study because the quantitative study needs extensive statistical analysis. And statistical analysis needs scientific discipline, so it is difficult for non-mathematicians to perform. Quantitative research is much more complex for social sciences and education. So the response should be based on the research questions rather than the simple response yes or no.
  • Quantitative research requires extra resources to analyses the results. (Sudeshna, 2016)

Qualitative research method

1) Definition

Qualitative research is a method to learn a deeper understanding of an organization, event or culture. It depends on what kind of phenomenon you want to know, qualitative research can also give you not only deeper but also broad understanding of events and data about human groups, and also the broad patterns behind events and people. Qualitative is easier and less time consuming because it uses non-statistical methods to get the understanding of the population. We do not need to deal with numbers. You may use in-depth interview method to have the deep understanding of people’s motivation or behavior. Another major different from quantitative research is that qualitative research is usually performed in a natural setting which is a contract with quantitative research in the lab. (Statistics how to, n.d.)

2) The characteristics of qualitative research

  • The data collection and analysis in qualitative research are the contrast with quantitative research. It is from small, specific and non-random samples.
  • The findings in qualitative research are judged depending on whether they make sense and can be consistent with the collected data.
  • The results in qualitative research are validated externally which is based on how well they may be applied in other situations.

Although qualitative research is different with quantitative research, does not require to have the formal structure as the lab-testing environment, there are still certain requirements as followings:

  • It should have the formal research purpose;
  • It should be related to existing theories, both published or unpublished. We cannot make up an idea without any theory to support.
  • It should be well-planned.
  • It should be recorded carefully by notes or other methods such as films or voice recording. (Statistics how to, n.d.)

3) The strengths of qualitative research

  • Qualitative research can simplify and manage data without destroying context and complexity;
  • The issues and subjects covered in qualitative research are evaluated in detail and depth;
  • Compared with quantitative research, the data is collected in qualitative research is more compelling and powerful, because it is based on human experience;
  • The data collection in qualitative research is different with quantitative research it comes from few individuals or cases, so the findings and results cannot spread to the large population, but it can be applied in another setting or situation; (OccupyTheory, 2014)
  • Qualitative research uses non-statistical methods. So it is easier to understand the phenomena, less complexity and time consuming compared with quantitative research which uses the statistical method.

4) The weakness of qualitative research

  • Qualitative research is too subject. The qualitative findings always rely on researcher’s unsystematic views about what is relevant, significant and important, and also on researchers study people with the close relationship with them. The quality of qualitative research can be easily influenced by researcher’s personal skills and knowledge.
  • Qualitative research is difficult to replicate. The reason it is unstructured and relying on researchers’ ingenuity, it is difficult to replicate because it is hard to follow any standard procedure. The investigator himself or herself is the main instrument to collect data in qualitative research, so their observation and heard or even to decide what is important is more like the investigator’s own products.
  • Generalization problem is existing in qualitative research. The scope of findings in the qualitative investigation is believed to be restricted. The reason is some observation or unstructured interview for respondent with the small number of individuals come from certain organization or locality, it is impossible for us to know whether these finding can be a generalization and applicable in another setting. How can just one or two cased be representative for all cases?
  • Qualitative research is lack of transparency. It is difficult to know what qualitative researchers actually did and how they get the findings and results. (Bryman & Bell, 2011)

5) Which research method is chose in this research report, and why?

Quantitative research method uses the statistical method. It is difficult for researchers to come from the non-statistical background. And it needs the much mathematical method. So quantitative method is complex and even difficult to understand the phenomena. Quantitative research needs to collect a large amount of data, so it must be time-consuming and need more resources to collect data. However, it is time and resources limited for me to collect data.

I do not want to choose quantitative research method, instead, I will choose qualitative research for my research, because qualitative research method is much easier and less time consuming and resource requirements to compare with quantitative research. In another side, qualitative research method use non-statistical method, even though I come from the non-statistical background, I still can use qualitative research method. And qualitative research method is easier to understand and analyze the phenomena.

6) The main steps in my research

Figure 1: the main steps in qualitative research. (Source: (Bryman & Bell, 2011))

Step 1: general research questions

  1. How to apply Sun Zi’s Art of War in the business strategy?
  2. Does Sun Zi’s Art of War apply in both Asian and Western countries’ business?

Step 2: selecting relevant sites and subjects

Research cases that company use Sun Zi’s Art of War in their organization. How they use the strategy in Sun Zi’s Art of War to manage their resources, apply into their marketing strategy or complete with their arrivals?

Step 3: the collection of relevant data

I will use case study method to collect the secondary data.

The case study method involves a complete and careful observation of a social unit, the unit may be a person, a family, a cultural group or even a whole community. This method is more depth but not broad. The case study method focuses on the analysis of a limit number of events and their interrelations. The objective of the case study is to identify the factors that explain the behavior-patterns of the given unit as a whole. (Kothari, 2004)

I will collect cases as mentioned in step 2.

Case 1: RuiMin Zhang is a famous entrepreneur in China. He has deeply study of Sun Zi’s Art of War. And he applied Sun Zi’s Art of War to his management styles and business competition strategies. He followed Sun Zi’s strategy: “know your enemy and know yourself, you can win hundreds of battles when he planned his three phases of business development strategies. The first phase was building the brand name. He knew market need good quality products. Guiding by his strategy, Haier used seven years only developed one product- the refrigerator. Haier builds up the excellent reputation for a strong brand name through their good quality refrigerator. The brand name became Haier’s strength. RuiMin Zhang also followed Sun Zi’s military strategy when came to the specific business tactics. “When governing military operation is like the flow of water, always evades high points and choose lower courses.” This is Sun Zi’s Strength-and-Weakness strategy. So we must avoid enemy’s strengths and attach their weaknesses if you want to win your enemy. There was one example when Haier entered the U.S. market. Zhang used Sun Zi’s Weakness-and-Strength strategy. The most major US appliance maker though the refrigerator was not too profitable products. So they only produced compact refrigerator. Haier made large size refrigerator to enter the US market and compete with GE and Whirlpool. Zhang succeeds with his first engagement in the US market. Zhang applied Sun Zi’s strategy in his business competition to achieve great success and leaded Haier to the world. (Yi & Ye, 2003)

Case 2: “win without fighting a single battle.” Sun Zi thought the direct conflict would be costly, so it was not the best option to fight a battle. He thought to fight the hundreds of battles and win hundreds battle is not the great option. However, to win without a single battle is the great option. The public health advocates thought McDonald’s fast food was not good for health. McDonald did not have direct conflict with public food advocates. They improve their food’s nutrition, reduced added sugars, fat, sodium, provided funds to the nutrition awareness community and increase both employees and customers’ ways to access nutrition information. (Cardello, 2011)

Step 4: interpretation of data

Based on the case study method, the business leader or manager is interested in Sun Zi’s Art of War and also study and understand deeply with Sun Zi’s strategy. Sun Zi’s strategy could be not only applied in military but also business management. The above cases show that leaders or managers use Sun Zi’s strategy and applied to their business to achieve success in their business competition. The cases approve that Sun Zi’s Art of War can really guide business’s leaders or managers to manage their business and win the competition. They should know how to apply the strategy in the business management.

Step 5: conceptual and theoretical work

Study and understanding Sun Zi’s Art of War is a guide or method to manage your business and win a greater competition position.

Step 6: findings

Sun Zi’s Art of War can be applied in business strategy. It provides a guide to the business leaders to extend their products or services market shares, manage their resources, learn how to be a good leader, compete with their arrival with efficiency and less costly. Sun Zi’s Art of War applied either in Asian but also in European countries in many areas. Many Japanese entrepreneurs believe Sun Zi’s strategy and applied to their business strategy. In another side, many western countries’ company such as McDonald also applied Sun Zi’s strategy in their business management and won their competition.

Discussion and contribution

My research question is how to apply The Art of War in business. The above literature review and research method show how do business leaders apply Sun Zi’s Art of War in their business and achieve success. The case study method also shows Sun Zi’s Art of War could be still applied in business such as market strategy, business competition. Both Asian and Western Countries’ business leaders are interested in Sun Zi’s Art of War. They spent plenty of time to study it and learn how to apply it in their business. KFC is a good example to show that Sun Tzu’s strategy could be applied to KFC’s successful model.

Becky Sheetz-Runkle did similar research. He applied Sun Zi’s Art of War in the small business. He stated how small business leaders could apply Sun Zi’s strategy in their leadership; how small business could use Sun Zi’s strategy to compete with the larger organization. Both Philip Kotler and Chou-Hou Wee compare the similarity of SWOT method and Sun Zi’s Art of war. Their research revealed that Sun Zi’s strategy has more than 2500 years’ history and was born in the special period and social environment, but it still could be applied in the modern business just like SWOT method. The famous quotation from Sun Zi’s Art of War: “know your enemy and know yourself, hundreds of battles hundreds win. It is similar to SWOT method’s strength and weakness study. When the organization knows both their competitors and themselves strengths and weaknesses, then there is more possibility for them to make the strategy to attack their competitors’ weakness and avoid their competitor’s strength.

My research result could approve that Sun Zi’s Art of War could be still used in modern business. It is still worth to study for businessman currently. My research report is still consistent with other investigators who research the application of Sun Tzu’s strategy in the modern business. I chose case study as my main research method. However, the better method could be the interview method. The time and resources are too limited, so I could not conduct interview method. In the further research, I will use interview method to get more information about how businessman applies Sun Zi’s strategy in their business. It is very meaningful and interesting to apply Sun Zi’s Art of War in the modern business. It could be used to help business leaders to make decisions on how to compete with their arrivals with the right time and right strategy.

I combined both Asian and Western entrepreneurs how they applied Sun Zi’s Art of War in the business. The specific strategies in The Art of War were applied in their business and how these strategies worked in their business.


The limitation of my research (qualitative and case study limitation)

Time is limited, because of only about three months’ researching and wring this research report. I do not have enough time to do further research and find better data to support my research.

Skills and knowledge limitation. There is limited of my research skills. Sun Zi’s Art of War is a profound and depth meaning in military tactics, it should need many years’ study. My understanding of Sun Zi’s Art of War depends on my past knowledge and these three months’ research. I never manage any business, all my business knowledge comes from books or media. I have no practical experience in business management. I do not think I got enough understanding of Sun Zi’s Art of War and practical business knowledge.

This research report may be too subject. All data collection and analysis come from my own effort. The whole report started from my own view, so it may be too subject.

It cannot be a generalization. This is one of the limitations of qualitative research. Qualitative research is not same as quantitative research. Quantitative research needs large numbers of data to support the research, so the report can be a generalization. My report’s data came from a few numbers of cases, I could not make sure few cases can stand for the whole unit.

Lack of transparency. This is also another limitation of qualitative research. I could not explain and present the specific details that how I collect and analysis my data and then make my conclusion. So this research report might be lack of transparency.

The case study as the main method in my qualitative research, so there are some weaknesses in this research report.

This report may be lack of rigout. This is one of limitation of the case study. There may be biased views will influence my findings and conclusion.

This report is lack of scientific generalization. The reason is the cases I used just a few numbers. So it is difficult to say it is generalization only based on a few cases.

I need to spend much time to conduct and organize the case in a systematical way because there are too many cases existing, and each case may have different findings or conclusion. So it is difficult to find cases and manage them systematically.

Because of the limited time, it is difficult for me to find many cases and choose the cases I could use. And it is difficult to make generalizing conclusion only based on these few cases.

Future research

There are many advantages of the quantitative research report, however, I only use qualitative research in this report. So I will try to use quantitative research method in my future research. But before I conduct quantitative research, I will learn some statistic knowledge.

The case study is the only method used in this report. I will use more research method such as the interview. I think interview business managers, study their management strategy. It will help my future research.

In the very beginning when I started my research report, I want to compare the how different between Asian and Western business apply Sun Zi’s Art of War into their business management. However, I could not collect any data to answer this question because of time and resource limited. In the future research, I will add this research question to collect my data.

I will keep study Sun Zi’s Art of War, gaining more understanding of his strategy in order to understand more depth about how can apply these strategies.

I want to expand my research that Sun Zi’s Art of War applies not only to business management but also in other areas. For example, how do leaders apply Sun Zi’s Art of War in their leadership style?

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