31 July 2014

Durians, Singaporeans, Li Ka Shing and Sun Zi's Art of War

Durians, Singaporeans, Li Ka Shing and Sun Zi's Art of War, what have they in common? This common element brings out the secret of the success of the super-rich Li Ka Shing and the essence of the Art of War of Sun Zi. It is also a characteristic of Singaporeans that will ensure their success in the competitive world. Find out this key word and apply it well in your life.
Durian is a very pungent and tasty fruit well liked by many in South East Asia. Here is a picture of durians:

The Durian Business Model
The problem is, the tasty part of the fruit in inside and you cannot see. Though you want the flesh to be creamy, sweet, slightly bitter, and very small seed, you can't really tell (unless you are an expert) from the outside. You may run the risk of paying a lot for the fruit only to discover that the 'flesh' inside is no good (not ripe or too watery, with big seeds). So, the Durian Sellers come out with a good business model for you, the customer. The model is "Guaranteed Good to Eat" (Bao Jia 包吃. You can pick and they will open up for you to eat. If it is no good, you don't pay for it. They replace another one for you. You only pay for those you eat. If part of the opened durian is good and part is bad. The bad part will be replaced from another durian. That is a sure win and safe model for the customers even though the price may be higher than you if pick yourself and pay for them.  It is also a sure win model for the suppliers too as the costs are covered in their supplier chain and the not good durians can be used in making durian cakes and other products.

The Secret of Li Ka Shing's Success.

李嘉诚说: 做生意要记住:手头上永远要有一样产品是天塌下来你也能赚钱的
Li Ka Shing: Must have some business such that even when the sky falls down there is still profits to make. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, also quoted this particular Li's statement in his talk too. Successful serial entrepreneur are NOT merely risks taker. They are the minimizing risks takers. They identify the key risks and find out the likelihood and take measures to protect themselves for such risks. If they can't, they just go into such unmanaged risky business. If common people take such approach, the con men will have a much harder time trying to cheat people.

The Singaporeans Key Attributes
Singaporeans are recognized for their KiaX's - The most famous one is KiaSu, translated as Afraid to Loose. For details see The Kia-Su Kia-X's Uniquely Singaporeans - Mindset... The inverse of afraid to lose will be 'guarantee to win' 包赢 Bao Yea. This is exactly what Li Ka Shing said above ... make sure you can still a profit no matter what happens, even if the sky falls down. 

The Objective Function of Sun Zi's Art of War
If we don't study Sun Zi's Art of War well, we will think that the key principle of war will be maximizing destruction, especially of the enemy.  However, a careful study of Sun Zi's Art of War will reveal that Sun Zi has an objective function, like in Operation Research Optimization, for war and it is Maximizing Benefits using Minimum Costs. You can see it clearly in the following quotes from his book:
  • Chapter 3v3.4 必以全争于天下, 故兵不顿, 利可全,
    An all out win by absorbing the enemy's resources and so loses no soldiers & gain all benefits 
  • Chapter 3v1.3 是故百战百胜, 非善之善者也;不战而屈人之兵, 善之善者也。
    Winning every battle is not the best. Win without a battle is the best.
    (i.e. there is no need to go for a war that consumes resources. The enemy just surrenders without a fight.)
  • Chapter 11v2 合于利而动, 不合于利而止
    Move only when there are gains. Stop when there are no gains. 
  • Chapter 12v2 非利不动, 非得不用, 非危不战
    Fight only on gaining advantages, benefits, or in danger
  • Chapter 2v4  4 故智将务食于敌, 食敌一锺, 当吾二十锺, 萁秆一石, 当我廿石。
    The Wise take over the Enemy's resources (rather than destroy it).
    It is worth 20 times more!
  • Chapter 3v1.2 凡用兵之法, 全国为上, 破国次之; 全旅为上, 破旅次之; 全卒为上, 破卒次之; 全伍为上, 破伍次之。
    The methods to use the force are: best to take the enemy' city intact rather than destroy it. Better to capture the battalion than to destroy it ...
  • Chapter 4v11 古之所谓善战者,胜于易胜者也。
    The skilled warrior of the past win against the enemy who is easy to defeat.
  • Chapter 4v12 故善战者之胜也,无智名,无勇功,
    The skilled warrior of the past, their win brings no fame for wisdom nor boldness.
    (i.e. They do not start a war just to gain glory).
  • Chapter 6v33 夫兵形象水,水之行避高而趋下, 兵之形避实而击虚;
    Army formation should be like water that bypasses the height and flow downward. So, the formation should avoid the strength of the enemy and attack the weak or undefended.
  • Chapter 4v1 孙子曰:昔之善战者,先为不可胜,以待敌之可胜。
    The skilled warrior of the past first be undefeatable and wait for the opportunity to win against the enemy. (Wait for the enemy to make mistakes or instigate the enemy to make mistakes. He does not take unnecessary risks to attack first.).
  • Chapter 5v15 是故胜兵先胜而后求战,败兵先战而后求胜。
    The winners plan first to win and then ask for war; the lose first start a war and then seek to win. (Plan first and see if a win is possible. Never start a war without planning and analysis.)
Sun Zi Art of War is actually the Economics of War with an objective function of maximizing benefits with minimizing costs. Sun Zi is actually the great great grandfather of Operations Research!

The secret of Apple's success was described by Philip Yeo as "it was designed for dummies“. See The Message behind “Philip Yeo’s Apple Apps’ gullible dummies.

The Golden Rule for Designed for Dummies is
  • Minimum effort with Maximum Returns” or “MaxValue@ZeroCost”

So, here is the question for your consideration.
If you have to pick an opponent, which of the following would you choose?
  1. A weak opponent that you can easily defeat and no one think much of you.
  2. A strong opponent so that when you beat him everyone sings your praises.
Your answer reveals your understanding of Sun Zi's Art of War.

Lim Liat (C) 31 July 2014

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