tymshft

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The Art of Repurposing

As you may have noticed, this blog is partially inspired by a verse in the book of Ecclesiastes – specifically, verse 1:9. (This verse has also inspired Jim Ulvog’s Outrun Change Blog, and for similar reasons.)

Now when “the Preacher” wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, he was not thinking about daylight saving time or three-dimensional printers or the similarities between wax cylinders and the iTunes store. He had much broader concerns. Yet this does not prevent people from taking verses from the book and applying it to the business world, or to the music world, or to other more mundane matters.

Eventually I may look at whether the book of Ecclesiastes may be useful as a guide for business – something that Eric Holter has already examined.

But when businesspeople look to non-business books for inspiration, two books that are often cited are Machiavelli’s The Prince and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Again, these authors had concerns that were very different from the business world, but that did not stop people from applying the lessons from these books to other areas.

I don’t know if Donald Krause was the first person to look at The Art of War from a business perspective, but his work The Art of War for Executives has certainly been influential. In a Sonshi.com interview, Krause explained how his book came to be. Here is an excerpt:

The book which really got me interested in Sun Tzu as a business tool was James Clavell’s novel, Noble House. It was obvious that people in the Far East (at least in Clavell’s conception of it) used the principles of The Art of War as a pattern for their competitive thinking.

I saw nothing like this in Western business literature. That is, I did not see a succinct set of tested, proven principles which could be applied across a wide range of business and personal situations in order to bring about one’s desired results. The problems I encountered were associated translating and interpreting Chinese idiom and history. Even though the translations I used (Griffith, Cleary, Sawyer, Clavell, and others) were excellent, they were not presented in business terms. I began keeping a set of personal note cards. When traveling, in the hotel room at night, I would take one passage from The Art of War and rewrite it so I could understand and use it.

So Krause repackaged this military/political guidance to serve people who “warred” in the business world. Therefore, people of this generation regard Sun Tzu in a different way than people of previous generations did.

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