The Importance of Distancing

2006-10-30 14:36:02    博士教育网  
  •  One of the most important principles un-derlying the
    conduct of war has to be pro-activeness.

     This is aptly captured by the following saying by Sun Tzi:

      "In the conduct of war, one must not rely on the enemy's
    failure to come, but on one's readiness to engage him;

     One must not rely on the enemy's failure to attack, but on
    one's ability to build an in-vincible defence.

     In war, as appropriately pointed out by Sun Tzi, one
    cannot rely on the failure of the enemy to attack us.
    Instead, one must be ever ready to take on the enemy. In
    addi-tion, the defence must be so strong that the enemy
    would not even dare to contemplate an attack. This
    proactiveness is thus not on-ly in defence, but in offence
    as well. This is a principle that is well understood by any
    military commander. By being proactive, he is able not only
    to gain the initiative, but will also have ample time and
    opportunity to deal with the enemy. On the other hand, if
    he is placed on the defensive, he is unlikely to come up
    with effective strategies. In fact, he will be under severe
    pressure, resulting in tension and even disunity within his
    rank-and-file.

     While proactiveness is well understood in military
    warfare, it tends to be easily over-looked in the context of
    business. More of-ten than not, many companies tend to
    adopt a "follower" strategy. To begin with, they hope that
    by following, they can reduce the risks involved. At the
    same time, they can copy the successful strategy of the
    leader and avoid his mistakes. There is nothing wrong with
    adopting a follower strategy, provided one chooses the right
    leader!

     The significance of the above quotation by Sun Tzi would
    be better understood in terms of its applications. Let me
    illustrate by posing a question. When you are num-ber two
    or three in your line of business (whether it is in terms of
    market share, profitability, quality standing, etc.), what
    would you like to be? I am sure many readers would have
    very little problem answering the question -- we all want to
    be number one!

     Now, if you are now ranked number one, what would be your
    goal or objective? This is where I often get very
    interesting answers. Typically, I would get the follo-wing
    answers from executives around the world:

     1. Defend the number one position.

     2. Protect the number one position (whe-ther this is in
    terms of profits, market share or some other criteria).

     3. Guard against the competitors.

     4. Maintain the leadership position.

     5. Sustain the number one position.

     6. Try to remain as number one.

     7. Stay number one.

     Now if you happen to hold one of the above responses, let
    me say that you are only half-right. By saying half-right,
    I mean you are half wrong! This is because all the above
    answers are passive, defensive and reactive responses! In
    actual fact, being number one, you are effectively the
    leader. As a leader, your main role is to lead.
    Un-fortunately, if you have a passive, defensive and
    reactive mindset, you are likely to end up following
    instead. This effectively vio-lates the principle of
    proactiveness as advo-cated by Sun Tzi.

     What then should the appropriate answer be? Of course, in
    war, we can destroy our enemies. In business, however, we
    do not go about destroying our competitors. This would
    project the company as very ruthless and without moral
    principles. However, while we do not go about destroying
    our business competitors, it does not mean that they do not
    wish that we are out-of-business. Without doubt, many
    companies wish that there are fewer and weaker com-petitors
    around. In this way, they would not have to work so hard
    for their market shares and profits!

     A more appropriate stance would be for the leader to
    distance itself from the com-petitors. Note that the key
    phrase is to dis-tance from one's competitors, not from
    one's own followers! By distancing itself from the rest of
    the field, it would be harder and harder for the competitors
    to catch up. In fact, if the gap becomes too big, the
    com-petitors may even give up chasing! More importantly,
    the concept of distancing can be applied to a company which
    is not in the number one position. For example, if the
    company is in the number two position, its goal would be to
    catch up and overtake the leader. However, it is equally
    important that it distances itself from the rest of the
    competitors. In this way, it is assured of the runner-up
    position while going for the champion!

     Interestingly, there are several reasons why it is so
    important to distance oneself from the rest. Let me
    illustrate through the game of basketball. When the score
    is 62 to 60, 64 to 62, 66 to 64, and so on (that is, the
    difference between the two teams is only two points apart),
    what would your answers be to the following questions:

     1. Which team do you think will be under greater stress?

     2. Which team is more willing to take risks?

     3. Which team will be afraid of making mistakes?

     4. Which team is likely to be more innovative and
    creative?

     Think of the answers carefully. Not sur-prisingly, many
    of you will say that the team that is behind by only two
    points is likely to be more willing to take risks and to
    inno-vate. Conversely, the team that is margi-nally ahead
    is more afraid to make mistakes, is less willing to take
    risks, and is under more stress and tension! The logic is
    very simple! The guy behind is too close for comfort! As a
    result, the team that is lea-ding is forced to take a more
    conservative posture to defend its position.

     This is where the irony lies. To be a lea-der, there is a
    need to continue to innovate and be creative. This implies
    the necessity to take risks and the ability to tolerate
    mis-takes. Only then can the people in the orga-nisation be
    willing to experiment, develop new ideas and concepts. All
    these can flou-rish much better if the organisation has
    enough "capital" and "buffer" to do so. This is where
    distancing becomes so crucial. It allows the leading
    company to have suffi-cient breathing space to develop new
    ideas and innovations, and accomplish them with minimal
    tension and stress. It is such a very simple, yet powerful
    concept that only the enlightened companies are able to
    practise it.

    (The writer is Professor of Business Policy; Dean, Faculty
    of Business Administration; Director, Graduate School of
    Business National University of Singapore & a resource
    panellist of SPH's Chinese Newspapers.)
      
    拉开距离的重要性
     

      打仗最重要的一条原则,是先发制人,防患于未然。孙子以下的
    话,便道出了个中道理:

      “故用兵之法,无恃其不来,恃吾有以待也;无恃其不攻,恃吾
    有所不可攻也。”

      (所以用兵的法则,不要寄望敌人不会来。而要依靠自己严阵以
    待,充分预备;不要寄望敌人不会进攻,而要依靠自己有使敌人无法
    攻破的力量。)

      孙子的话没错。两军开战时,不可以把希望放在敌人不来攻击,
    而应该做好充分准备,给敌人迎头痛击。另外,也要有坚实的防卫,
    坚实到敌人根本就不敢动进攻的主意。

      很多军事将领深深懂得这原则。先发制人,不但占了主动权,也
    让自己有足够时间和机会应付敌人。反之采取退守姿态就不太可能想
    出有效战略。事实上部下会因此感受到强大压力,以致搞到关系紧张
    ,甚至团结不起来。

      先发制人的道理,在战场上最清楚不过,但商界人士经常都把它
    忽略掉。最常看到的是有许多公司走“跟风”路线。跟在别人后面,
    最大的希望当然是减少冒险,同时可以照搬先行者的成功策略,避免
    重蹈覆辙。

      跟风路线是没有错,当然你得要跟对人!

      上述的孙子语录,在实际运用时就更能深刻体会了。让我以一个
    提问来作说明。假设在你的业务领域里,你是老二或老三(不管是指
    市场占有率、盈利,还是品质等级等),你打算怎么做?我想对很多
    的读者来说,答案根本不难——我们都要成为“天字第一号”!

      现在,如果你已经是排行榜上的第一名,你又会设下什么目标呢
    ?答案往往很有趣。以下是世界各个角落的执行人员,提供给我的一
    些典型答案:

      1.守住第一的位置;

      2.保护第一的位置(不管是以盈利、市场占有率或其他标准来看);

      3.看守好竞争对手;

      4.维持领导地位;

      5.在第一位坚持下去;

      6.尽力留在第一的位置;

      7.保持第一。

      以上的任何一条如果就是你的答案,那让我告诉你,你只对了一
    半。说你对一半,意思就是你有另一半错了!

      因为所列出的这些答案,都是被动、守势、见招拆招式的回应。
    实际上,既然排名第一,你就彻彻底底是个领导者。而作为领导者,
    你的主要任务就是领导!不幸的是,如你的思路已定型了,满脑的被
    动、守势、见招拆招,很可能最后你也会加入一窝蜂的行列中。而这
    和孙子主张的先发制人,就有所抵触。

      那什么才是合适的答案?如果是战争,我们当然可以歼灭敌人,
    但做生意并不必四处去“制竞争对手于死命”。这会让公司落得个无
    情无义、没有道德原则的名声。

      无须四处去制竞争对手于死命,不等于说敌人就不想把我们赶出
    场。毫无疑问的,很多公司希望对手越少越好,也越弱越好,这样,
    就不必整天为市场占有率和盈利而拼死拼活!

      作为领导者,一个较正确的姿态是在自己和对手之间,拉开距离
    。请注意,关键字眼是和“对手”,而不是跟随者拉开距离!当你和
    “赛场上所有的人”有了距离,对手想迎头赶上,便会越来越困难。
    事实上,差距越拉越大,还可能逼得他们放弃追赶!

      还有一点更重要,不是名列前茅的公司,也用得着拉开距离这个
    概念。例如公司如果位居第二,目标当然是超越第一,但摆脱其他竞
    争者的纠缠也同样重要。这样,你就站稳了坐亚望冠的优势!

      一定要拉开和其他人的距离,背后的原因很多。让我用篮球比赛
    来说明。两队的比分如果是62-60、64-62、66-64……(差别一直就
    是这两分),你会怎样回答我以下的提问呢?

      1.哪一队承受的压力较大?

      2.哪一队更愿意冒险?

      3.哪一队更怕犯错?

      4.哪一队比较可能打出新意,有创造力?

      好好琢磨一下才回答。选择应该是明显的,很多人都会说,只落
    后两分的球队更有冒险和创新的意愿。相反的,稍微领先的球队一定
    更怕犯错,更不愿冒险,也更感觉到紧张和压力!逻辑再简单不过。
    在后面追赶的家伙“逼得太紧”了!而被追赶的不想让位,于是变得
    更保守。

      这就是矛盾所在了。身为领先者,就得不断创新和表现出创意。
    因此免不了要冒险,也必须能忍受犯错。只有这样,公司成员才愿意
    尝试,以及愿意开发新点子和概念。而所有这些工作要做得更出色,
    公司须有足够的“本钱”和“缓冲”才行。就在这里,拉开距离变得
    事关重大。它让领先的公司有更大的呼吸空档,去开发新的意念和创
    造,并且在最不紧张,最少压力的情况下把任务完成。这是个简单却
    强而有力的概念,但也只有开窍的公司才有能力加以贯彻。(作者是
    新加坡国立大学企业管理学院院长及华文报咨询团成员)

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