Our actions have innumerableunintended consequences. We often don’t realize or acknowledge these consequences,but within them, we have an opportunity to act invisibly and influentially. Ifwe think about our actions, then we can send out hidden messages and causeother players in our game to adjust their behavior.
This as stratagem 28: point at the mulberry but curse the locust.
Here’s how the stratagemworks: Rather than attack your adversarydirectly, focus your attention on a different target. This action sends acovert message to your adversary, one that displays your power and communicatesyour intention. Your adversary, appreciating your power and intention, altershis behavior.
This ancient stratagem evenapplies today. Corporations use this tactic to bring competitors intoalignment. Right now Apple is using this approach with its recent lawsuitagainst HTC, the Taiwanese company that is the largest maker of smartphonesrunning Google’s Android operating system.
On the surface, it seemsApple is suing HTC because of patent infringements. But many believe this lawsuithas more to do with sending a message to Google.
For years Apple has been theleader in smartphones with its iPhone. Google’s operating system, Android, hassimilar functions and capabilities to Apple’s iPhone, and Google gives away theAndroid system to phone manufactures. That depletes the uniqueness of Apple’sproducts and cuts into Apple’s market share.
Last year, HTC, among otherphone makers, started making phones using the Android system. This has offeredconsumers quite a good substitute to the pricey iPhone and AT&T servicecontract.
By attacking HTC, Apple warns Google to stay offits turf. This may only be the first attack in a long conflict between the twocompanies. Only time, and lawsuit outcomes, will tell if this stratagem will besuccessful for Apple. But it’s a great example of how to secretly send amessage to competitors.
Knowing that our actions send different signals todifferent players, we can choose our actions for the broader messages theysend. This gives us a powerful tool with which to influence our environments. Ask yourself the questions below to see ifyou can use this approach to send the right messages.
1.Who is our biggest competitor?
2.Who do we want to convince that we are serious about pursuing our visionor defending our market share?
3.Instead of approaching this player directly, who can we focus ourattention on to spread our message?
4. Is there a smaller competitor or new service that we can partner with to show our other competitor our intentions?