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Clausewitz on Strategy: Inspiration and Insight from a Master Strategistby Tiha von Ghyczy
Synopses & Reviews
What can a nineteenth-century Prussian general teach a twenty-first-century executive or entrepreneur about business strategy? Everything! When alliances are made, broken, and reconstituted at dizzying speed; when experience is left helpless in the face of unprecedented events; and when rules, principles, and how-to prescriptions no longer apply-these, says Carl von Clausewitz, are the times during which the true strategist thrives. Certainly present in times of war, these conditions are virtually endemic to today's economy.
Clausewitz on Strategy speaks loudly and clearly to both reflective practitioners of business and emerging strategists about how to proceed during periods of instability, uncertainty, and rapid change.
With a fresh translation and editing that carefully selects one-sixth of the original material, these highly focused selections from Clausewitz's classic On War present a philosophy of strategy that fuses logical analysis, classical dialectics, historical understanding, psychological insight, and sociological comprehension into an encompassing exposition of strategic thought and behavior.
Clausewitz expounds on the nature of strategic genius, strategy as an outgrowth of the clash of wills, tactics and strategy, offensive and defensive strategies, the elements and dynamics of strategy, the virtues of the commander, and more. His purpose is to prepare leaders for fundamental insights into the nature and characteristics of strategic interaction.
Supplemented with a thoughtful critical essay by The Strategy Institute of The Boston Consulting Group, historical notes, and related excerpts from the writings of other notable thinkers, this challenging and rewarding volume is important reading for anyone interested in understanding the fundamentals of strategy in any field involving competition and uncertainty.
Book News Annotation:
As a Prussian general, Clausewitz' (1780-1831) focus was on military strategy. Here, Ghycazy (business, U. of Virginia), von Oetinger (The Boston Group), and Bassford (strategy, National War College, Wash., D.C.) present selections from Clausewitz' text, On War which they deem applicable to contemporary business and to society in general. A critical essay by The Strategy Institute of The Boston Consulting Group is followed by Clausewitz' writings on such topics as the nature of strategic genius, offensive and defensive strategies, and the elements and dynamics of strategy. Intended for anyone in a field involving competition and uncertainty.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From Clausewitz on Strategy . . .
On strategic genius
"If the mind is to survive this constant battle with the unexpected, two qualities are indispensable: first, an intellect that even in this moment of intense darkness retains some trace of the inner light that will lead it to the truth, and second, the courage to go where that faint light leads."
On the role of strategic theory
". . . all principles, rules, and methods increasingly lack universality and absolute truth the moment they become a positive doctrine. They are there to present themselves for use. Judgment must always be free to determine whether or not they are suitable. Criticism must never use these results of theory as laws and standards, but only as a person acting in war should also do: as aids to judgment."
"It is not true that we should always choose the case with the least uncertainty. That would be a terrible mistake, as all of our theoretical deliberations show. There are instances in which the most daring course of action is the wisest choice."
On leadership qualities
"The further we go up the chain of command, the more necessary it becomes for boldness to go hand in hand with the superior mind . . ."
"Everything in strategy is very simple, but that does not make everything easy."
This book offers Clausewitz's framework for self-education--a way to train the reader's thinking. Readers will learn from Clausewitz how to think about strategy and sharpen their judgement in an unpredictable environment.
About the Author
THE STRATEGY INSTITUTE OF THE BOSTON CONSULTING GROUP (BCG) was formed to enrich the Group's thinking by collecting insights into the nature of strategy from various academic fields and transferring them to strategy in business and society.
TIHA VON GHYCZY is a faculty member at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. He is a Fellow of The Strategy Institute of The Boston Consulting Group. As a former partner of BCG, he was engaged in the practice groups for manufacturing/time-based competition and high technology.
BOLKO VON OETINGER is a Senior Vice Presi-dent of The Boston Consulting Group and Director of the firm's Strategy Institute. He is a member of BCG's Technology and Communications practice and has published several articles and books on strategy and innovation.
CHRISTOPHER BASSFORD is Professor of Strategy at the National War College in Washington, D.C. A former U.S. Army artillery officer, he is the author of several books, including Clausewitz in English: The Reception of Clausewitz in Britain and America and The Spit-Shine Syndrome: Organizational Irrationality in the American Field Army.
Table of Contents
The Strategy Institute of The Boston Consulting Group.
Marie von Clausewitz: Preface from 1832.
THE GENIUS OF STRATEGY.
The Coup d'Oeil.
Theory in the Service of Genius.
THE THEATER OF STRATEGY.
The Clash of Wills.
Tactics and Strategy.
Simple, but Not Easy.
Attack and Defense.
Elements of Strategy.
Dynamics of Strategy.
THE VIRTUES OF STRATEGY.
The Virtues of the Army.
The Moral Virtues of the Commander.
Sources for Sidebars.
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