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Last week, we launched a Course Preview for Chinese Strategic Thinking with Professor Dr. Foo Check Teck. With only 9 days left until the commencement of a two-day workshop for the Executive Certificate in Art of Strategy, Professor Dr. Foo made sure to have answered all the questions that our students may have.

About Sun Tzu Art of War

The Art of War is one of the most ancient Chinese treaties on military leadership and strategy. It is written by strategist and warrior philosopher Sun Tzu, The Art of War has by now transcended beyond military applications. Sun Tzu’s ancient Art of War Strategy has inspired military, Political and business leaders across the world with it’s brilliant strategies for prevailing against opponents.

Q: How will learning the Sun Tzu Art of War benefit me in life?

A: The Sun Tzu Art of War is very useful. In fact for my course, I’m going to emphasize one thing in your deck. You should create your own Art of War, using Sun Tzu Art of War as a framework. It’s similar to formatting a computer. Having formatted, you build on using your own art of war, your method of strategy that is most appropriate for your business. Even your personality, everything about you should be factored into the Art of War – your Art of War. So you shouldn’t be studying anything just for memorization. Although you start from memorizing, because Art of War is so powerful.

Q: How will Sun Tzu Art of War prepare me for the VUCA world?

A: Now first of all, I think the reality of this world is that we are in a technology evolution. Technology is upsetting everything. So that’s volatility and you have got rapid changes. Uncertainty because of the Coronavirus for example. This virus created a lot of ambiguity, “when will the virus end?” But learning the Sun Tzu Art of War will prepare you. Why? Because Sun Tzu emphasized on opportunity. Be an opportunist. Eastern strategy is very much related to opportunity. In other words, Sun Tzu used the word, ‘趁机’ (seize the opportunity). Have flexibility, be like water. When you pour water into any cup it adopts the shape of the cup. It becomes something very responsive to change. So you adopt a flexible mind through learning the Art of War. You will not have a fixed mind, using a fixed method.

Q: Is Eastern strategy better than Western strategy?

A: The only thing that matters is winning. It doesn’t matter Eastern or Western (strategy). I embrace Western (strategy) and realized it is very powerful. So I blend them both (Western and Eastern strategy). It is the blending that is very important. Now bear in mind there is only one thing that matters – winning. You have to win. Doesn’t matter where the ideas come from.

Q: Is this applicable in today’s MNC?

A: Sure it is! If you Google ‘Sun Tzu Art of War’, you’ll find that there are a lot of top CEOs who believe in the Art of War. In fact I just did a class for IBM, about selling and teamwork. All the top companies believe in it, even the Pentagon believes in it. It depends on how creative you are. Not everybody is a strategist.

Q: How do business leaders apply the Art of War today?

A: If you read up on Masayoshi Son, the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Japanese holding company Softbank, he based his success on the frameworks of Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

Q: Will you talk about other great sages such as Warring State, Gui Gu Zi (鬼谷子) in this program?

A: Gui Gu Zi (鬼谷子) is much more difficult for me to teach. One reason why the West finds Sun Tzu so interesting as a chapter to teach because it is complete. You can relate management activities to Sun Tzu, even accounting concepts with Art of War. Sun Tzu got theories on spies and everything is contained in it (his teachings). And I can relate, theories of Western management all found in Sun Tzu art of war. But Gui Gu Zi (鬼谷子) is more sophisticated, more diplomatic. If I explore this area it will become too generic. I have discussed Mao Zedong (毛泽东)’s strategy, as he is more current today. The other strategy that I may discuss and introduce is Fan Li (). Fan Li (), also known as Tao Zhu Dong (陶朱公), he’s fantastic in finance management. Three times, he recooped his wealth and he is one of the richest men in China. We’ll address this step by step, but the whole idea (of this program) is to ground you solidly on Sun Tzu. Then from there you can learn further.

Q: Any final words that you have for our future students who are to sign up for this program?

A: I have enjoyed myself very much and glad that there are Singaporeans who are keen to learn the Art of War, Sun Tzu. Most importantly you must win, you must succeed. One of the best things you can learn through studying this course is to think like Sun Tzu and anticipate what your enemies are thinking. Studying their mind is very important, understanding the mind of the Chinese.