Have A Back-Up Plan To Your Back-Up Plan

Every week I
share a few stratagems to help inspire my readers. But if you’re not familiar
with my books, Hide A Dagger Behind A Smile and The Way of Innovation, then you
probably find the stratagems interesting but not overly empowering.


One of the keys
to understanding how to use these time-tested stratagems in your business and
life is to develop clearly defined strategies based off the basic principles I
present. Then you must blend a combination of those strategies into one attack

Each stratagem,
when correctly chosen and executed, can cause dramatic shifts in power, giving
its wielder temporary advantage over his adversaries. But our ambitions — in
politics, war, or business — are longer lasting. Moving from a temporary
advantage to a longer-lasting or even permanent advantage involves implementing
a stream of linked stratagems into an appropriate business strategy.

The most
competitive companies of the decade each implemented at least three stratagems to
develop strategies which helped them outperform their peers. Some launched as
many as 15. When artfully constructed and incessantly executed, a stream of
strategies will keep your competition off balance and make you a player few can
contend with.

Several of the
companies that I have reviewed combine a series of strategies to carve out
their place in their particular industries. Remember Valley Forge Fabrics? The
decorative upholstery company has spent more than three decades building its
business and it now sells more fabric to the hospitality industry than any
other company in the world.

How did they do
this? By building strategies based off the following stratagems:

Take the
Unorthodox Path
– Valley Forge reorganized the fabric and yarn supply chain,
which ended up creating a compelling competitive advantage.


Give Up One Front
To Win Another
– Valley Forge is the world’s largest supplier of decorative
fabrics to the hospitality industry in part because it purposely ignores other,
seemingly more attractive markets like general consumers.

Send Your Troops
Deep Into Enemy Territory
– To inspire cohesion and innovative thinking, a
company must be united against a common enemy. Valley Forge allows managers to
run their own teams, which empowers them and makes them feel like a larger part
of the company.

There are so many
more examples of companies using a multi-strategy method and it seems like a
logical approach. But a lot of businesses develop a business plan and then are
too rigid in its application. If the business plan doesn’t have multiple
strategies to achieve the company’s goals, then it’s just a plan to failure.

Sun Tzu advised
setting multiple traps so that “if your adversary does not step into one,
they back into another.”

To build a successful
attack, make sure you keep the follow key elements in mind:

* Rather than
execute one strategy, you execute many (simultaneously or in succession).


* If one strategy
is not effective, the next one is. If the next one is not effective, the
following one is.

* Your adversary
is eventually overwhelmed or caught in an impossible situation, then fails.

This approach
doesn’t happen overnight and it requires a combination of “learning as you go”
and research and planning. But businesses must be adaptable to survive, and the
ones with the most extensive toolbox of strategies will do more than survive –
they will thrive.


About the author

Author of Outthink the Competition business strategy keynote speaker and CEO of Outthinker, a strategic innovation firm, Kaihan Krippendorff teaches executives, managers and business owners how to seize opportunities others ignore, unlock innovation, and build strategic thinking skills. Companies such as Microsoft, Citigroup, and Johnson & Johnson have successfully implemented Kaihan’s approach because their executive leadership sees the value of his innovative technique. Kaihan has delivered business strategy keynote speeches for organizations such as Motorola, Schering‐Plough, Colgate‐Palmolive, Fortune Magazine, Harvard Business Review, the Society of Human Resource Managers, the Entrepreneurs Organization, and The Asia Society