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The Lost Art of Creative Thinking

Author: Scott Arias

What is creative thinking? Creative Thinking is a lost art. Most people work through the paradigm they have learned from their education and experience. Too few people understand what Critical Thinking is and how to use it. To help myself and others, I have done a lot of reading over the past 20 years and discovered there is one book that you could read that will lead to a more productive critical thinking process. That book is The Art of War by Sun Tzu. I will not go into the amazing story behind Sun Tzu life, but I will tell you he was a high-ranking military general, strategist, and tactician. This book is broken into 13 chapters, focusing on warfare that could and has been applied to almost any discipline. Here is a summary of the chapters as outlined in Roger Ames 1993 book. I would highly recommend you read and apply to what you do:

“Laying Plans/The Calculations explores the five fundamental factors (the Way, seasons, terrain, leadership, and management) and seven elements that determine the outcomes of military engagements. By thinking, assessing, and comparing these points, a commander can calculate his chances of victory. Habitual deviation from these calculations will ensure failure via improper action. The text stresses that war is a very grave matter for the state, and must not be commenced without due consideration.

Waging War/The Challenge explains how to understand the economy of warfare, and how success requires winning decisive engagements quickly. This section advises that successful military campaigns require limiting the cost of competition and conflict

Attack by Stratagem/The Plan of Attack defines the source of strength as unity, not size, and discusses the five factors that are needed to succeed in any war. In order of importance, these critical factors are: Attack, Strategy, Alliances, Army, and Cities.

Tactical Dispositions/Positioning explains the importance of defending existing positions until a commander is capable of advancing from those positions in safety. It teaches commanders the importance of recognizing strategic opportunities and teaches them not to create opportunities for the enemy.

Energy/Directing explains the use of creativity and timing in building an army’s momentum.

Weak Points & Strong/Illusion and Reality explains how an army’s opportunities come from the openings in the environment caused by the relative weakness of the enemy in a given area

Maneuvering/Engaging The Force explains the dangers of direct conflict and how to win those confrontations when they are forced upon the commander

Variation in Tactics/The Nine Variations focuses on the need for flexibility in an army’s responses. It explains how to respond to shifting circumstances successfully.

The Army on the March/Moving The Force describes the different situations in which an army finds itself as it moves through new enemy territories, and how to respond to these situations. Much of this section focuses on evaluating the intentions of others.

Terrain/Situational Positioning looks at the three general areas of resistance (distance, dangers, and barriers) and the six types of ground positions that arise from them. Each of these six field positions offers certain advantages and disadvantages

The Nine Situations/Nine Terrains describes the nine common situations (or stages) in a campaign, from scattering to deadly, and the specific focus that a commander will need in order to successfully navigate them.

The Attack by Fire/Fiery Attack explains the general use of weapons and the specific use of the environment as a weapon. This section examines the five targets for attack, the five types of environmental attack, and the appropriate responses to such attacks.

The Use of Spies/The Use of Intelligence focuses on the importance of developing good information, sources, and specifies the five types of intelligence sources and how to best manage each of them” (Ames, 1993).

As a business leader, I would highly suggest you give time and credence to this book and apply it to whatever you do daily.

Works Cited:

Ames, Roger T. (1993). Sun-tzu: The Art of Warfare: The First English Translation Incorporating the Recently Discovered Yin-chʻüeh-shan Texts. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0345362391

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