The Way of Go: 8 Ancient Strategy Secrets for Success in Business and Life

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For centuries, business, political, and military leaders throughout Asia have had a secret weapon for success -- the philosophies and strategies found in an ancient game called Go.

Now, Troy Anderson, an entrepreneur, knowledge management expert, Fortune 500 management consultant, and one of only five Americans to train at the Japanese Professional Go Academy, brings these philosophies and strategies to the West.

Leaders and intellects such as...

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For centuries, business, political, and military leaders throughout Asia have had a secret weapon for success -- the philosophies and strategies found in an ancient game called Go.

Now, Troy Anderson, an entrepreneur, knowledge management expert, Fortune 500 management consultant, and one of only five Americans to train at the Japanese Professional Go Academy, brings these philosophies and strategies to the West.

Leaders and intellects such as Mao Tse-tung, Bill Gates, and John Nash (the game was featured in the movie A Beautiful Mind) as well as many CEOs and political leaders throughout Asia are among the 27 million people who have played this simple two-person board game known as the "game of geniuses."

In this unique book, Troy Anderson shares the essential elements of strategy and competition that define the game of Go and shows how these principles can be applied wherever strategy is called for:

  • How to make use of limited resources and time to produce the largest gain
  • Which initiatives to continue and which to abandon
  • When to lead and when to follow your opponent
  • How to weigh competing interests among different units
  • How to enter a market where the competition is already well established
  • How to proceed to ensure success if the competition enters your market
  • How to create a strategic plan when the market changes quickly
  • How to go global but think locally

Go provides experience and understanding regarding basic strategic problems that no other art, science, or field, other than war, can readily claim. In addition to an enriching account of how the game of Go has influenced Anderson's life, the valuable lessons impartedhere add up to a powerful prescription for success -- whether you are seeking professional achievement, better competitive understanding, stronger personal relationships, or simply a more rewarding life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Anderson, a consultant and managing director of Knowledge Initiatives at the Fannie Mae Foundation, is an accomplished player of Go-an ancient and popular Japanese game gaining fans around the world. Requiring strategic moves like chess, the game is more complex and can teach players how to handle situations in business and life, Anderson argues; "Most strategies resource allocation decisions are-at their roots-classic Go strategy problems," he writes. Experienced players will have less difficulty than novices handling key problems such as when to expand into a competitor's territory, how to allocate scarce resources and how to create strategies in a time of rapid change because of their knowledge of Go. Anderson is an adept writer and conveys his enthusiasm for the game, particularly when he recalls devoting an inordinate amount of time to it during his college days. He arrives in Tokyo without even a hotel room but simply the names of a few players and an eagerness to learn from the masters of Go. Anderson does offer some real business scenarios to support his thesis. However, readers unfamiliar with Go may find the book tedious; without an understanding of the game's strategies, they're unlikely to be persuaded that the game's lessons are critical to business success. Agent, Rafe Sagalyn. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641723643
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Trade
  • Publication date: 8/16/2004
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The Way of Go

8 Ancient Strategy Secrets for Success in Business and Life
By Troy Anderson

Free Press

Copyright © 2004 Troy Anderson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7432-5814-2

Chapter One

Global Local

It is easy to get lost in local battles and not focus on the global position. The winner in Go is not the player who wins the most spectacular battle somewhere, but the player who wins the war. Having a global focus in Go gives you an edge on locally minded competitors, because there can be almost a dozen different battles going on at any one time, and you get only one move at a time. The more you put each battle into a global context, the more likely you will play the right move aligned with the overall objective - winning the game. It's the same sort of thing you learn as a child. Would I rather have the piece of candy in front of me or get a whole pitcher of candy later? When you are a child, you always want that local, immediate win, no matter the bigger picture. As you get older, you realize that this local, immediate loss pales in comparison to the bigger win - except when you forget that there is a bigger picture, which happens to everyone no matter the age.

At the same time, without an understanding of things on a local level, you really don't have a good grasp of which positions are strong and which are weak. Really understanding things at a local level can lead to wonderful opportunities that are not apparent from a global twenty-thousand-foot view. Getting down in the trenches and really understanding the inner workings of your positions not only gives you a better assessment of things but also can pay dividends when situations change and a different purpose is called for locally. The founding executives of Hewlett-Packard were big fans of managing by "walking around." Instead of being cooped up in an office, away from the people actually doing the work, at HP, executives were encouraged to walk around and see things locally. Getting the worker's perspective and seeing the problems at their root level was a local, instead of global, technique that was a large part of the "HP Way" and was a foundation for understanding their business.

Global Local Rules and Structure

The principles of Global Local are that you must change lenses as appropriate to the circumstances. Your perspective, your framing of the goal, and the stage of your work all matter in considering what side of the spectrum of the Global Local duality you need to be pulling from. Without the local understanding, you cannot have a right global understanding. Without knowing where you're going globally, a lot of work locally can have you going the wrong way. Appreciate the danger of applying a rule from the wrong side of the duality.

It is a good momentum-inspiring practice to celebrate small wins, the joys of doing something right as a person or an organization. However, when these small-win celebrations cloud global issues pertaining to strategy or direction in the bigger board or picture - the one goal that has to define and measure the benefit of the small win - you obscure the bigger-picture problems. Despite the euphoria they provide, small wins can't bandage what needs a tourniquet. Small wins can be evil successes when not in the context of the global perspective.

The other side of the coin is equally nefarious. Everyone knows you should not be obsessed with quarterly results at the expense of the longer-term view. It's a poor global business attitude that is not aligned with customers' best interests. If you work for such a company, you're bound to be in for a world of hurt. You ought to quit and find another job. However, if this is your only job prospect and you have to meet your quarterly goals to stay employed, you'd better care less about the global view until the quarter's up. If you care about your global prospects, you'd best try to remain employed while you look for other work and forget all about the global till then. You may be desperate to get the sales you need this quarter, but imagine the desperation you'll experience should you be uncushioning the couch looking for that last quarter that will get the rent paid if you're unemployed.

Keep the Global in the back of your head, but don't let it kill whatever enthusiasm you can muster to keep yourself employed and sold through the end of the quarter. As you'll discover in Chapter 2, Owe Save, you often have to pay for your mistakes. The rule in Go is "take your medicine." No matter how terrible, if you owe (like having a job with a company that thinks only quarter to quarter), you gotta pay (make your quarterly numbers or perish).

Different environments and stages of the game demand different perspectives on global and local, and we'll get to these soon, but there are also idiosyncratic pairings of global and local in other human endeavors that necessitate managing your Global Local lenses.

Short-term is the wrong time frame for a diet. If you want to be on a restrictive diet but have an unrestricted appetite and lack the discipline to see beyond the joy of eating that thing you crave, you must develop the long-term perspective first, or why start? In Go, the rule is "don't play chutto hampa," or don't play the lukewarm move. If you're just going to eat the way you want to eat, eat that way. Eating restrictively and then bingeing is the epitome of chutto hampa, suffering no-dressing McDonald's salads and later getting sick from eating éclairs like French fries. If you're going to start a diet, figure out how the long-term dominates the short-term, then proceed. Until the long-term diet view is bigger than the local view of the doughnut, your goal is full of holes.

Likewise, the long term is the wrong time frame for fighting fires and emergencies. A deeply religious man and his wife were at home while the kids were out and he was going about his usual thanking of the Lord for all his bounty as a fire started in another room. As the fire grew, the man prayed for direction and guidance. His wife, truly his polar complement, kicked him in the rear and told him, "Pray outside!" While the man clearly had a good sense for the bigger picture in his eternal goal time frame, he was a bit lacking in thinking about the short-term local needs of his wife, kids, and those who depended on him. His wife, ever the down-to-earth person, would later say, "He's not getting any express trip to heaven while I'm still alive." The rule in Go is "never hurt your own stones." While sacrifice is part of the game, you never do it without exhanging for something else. Fortunately, this man's wife was calling the shots.

Managing these two lenses is part of every strong Go player's repertoire. If you cannot change the lens to go macro and micro, you'll miss out on opportunities from the perspective you're missing. Moreover, if the two perspectives are not balanced, you likewise suffer. You can go only so far with an expert's view of global issues without the local view necessary to enforce your global vision. Likewise, you can fight and scratch locally better than anyone, but if what you're fighting for is not clear, if you just fight to fight and don't look at what you're gaining and losing as a result of each battle, you're bound to lose the war.

But how do you know when to be local and when to be global? What kind of rules are ascribed to the two polar opposites? How to reconcile? In Go, I learned these rules in the comfort and safety of thousands of Go matches; in life, I took my learning out of the Go context and experienced it without a safety net in the real world.

My first time serving as acting president of the Coquille Economic Development Corporation, a company of the Coquille Indian tribe of which I am a member, I certainly gained a new appreciation for Global Local rules, as I had only really thought through the concept Global Local in terms of Go before this time. This changed dramatically one cloudy day.

Coquille Economic Development Corporation

The Coquille Indian tribe had been "terminated" in 1954 through an act of Congress. This act was to be the final salvo from the U.S. government against the Coquille. The Coquille had already lost most of their treaty and promised rights, and most of their ancestry to tuberculosis, smallpox, and other introduced diseases and to massacres. Its languages (including Miluk), antiquities, cultures, and lands were already for the most part gone, assimilated or disseminated. If ever you wanted to kick a tribe when it was down, you could take away its shadow of sovereignty and think you'd be done with it. But, after decades of struggle by the terminated Coquilles to unterminate ourselves, Congress was compelled to right one wrong and asked the tribe as part of its restoration act of 1989 to become economically self-sufficient. Thus was granted a restoration of rights to operate as a sovereign nation and the license to set up and initiate work as the Coquille Economic Development Corporation (CEDCO).

Ask anyone how to encourage economic development for an Indian tribe and most will respond "casino." Unfortunately, when the largest metropolitan area is Eugene, Oregon, and even that's a two-hour drive on winding roads that would make even the most seaworthy nauseated, you'd better come up with more than that. Yeah, you could fly, but at the time, the planes flying into the North Bend International Airport sat only eighteen hunchbacks whose only in-flight meal would be their knees. Not to mention that when CEDCO started it had a scant three acres to work with, three employees, nominal dollars, and the various bureaucracies of a tribe, a local county commission, a pro no-change congressman, and the largest, most inefficiently run shop in the U.S. government, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, to help "guide" it.

Despite significant political battles internally with the tribal council and membership, the external battles with the local cities, counties, and state and congressional representatives, CEDCO's overall economic development effort propelled us to one of the most remarkable growth spurts in Native American community and economic development without the advantage of being able to locate a casino next to a major metropolis. Whether walking things through the U.S. government or tussling over sovereignty and other issues, CEDCO created five different businesses that would allow us to meet Congress's mandate to become economically self-sufficient. Yes, there was a casino, but in the long-term uncertainty of regulations and law changes, we had a diversified portfolio of businesses that would sustain us through almost any sea change in perception of tribes and their casinos.

Aside from starting a housing authority, managing our grant writing, and shepherding our agricultural initiatives, I knew little of how our day-to-day business worked. We had grown from three to five hundred plus employees, went from three acres to fifty-eight hundred plus, started with practically zero dollars and now were approaching a $25 million annual run rate in revenue, all between 1992 and 1996, but still I was more of a witness to the bigger picture than the instigator. While I had certainly been responsible for a large part of this development, I was not the president. As a vice-president, you are rather sheltered from bearing the brunt of responsibility, as the buck does not stop with you.

This ended one day when the big boss left the fog-laden Oregon coast for a vacation in sunny Hawaii. Now I would wear the mantle. As the acting prez, my perspective on global and local decision-making as a businessperson would forever change. Not only was the president gone, but everything tried to go awry that day.

A Banner Day

As a Go player, I saw the game of business we were playing in analogue. I had a good sense for what needed to be done at the ground and localized level on the variety of initiatives on which we'd embarked. Since I knew of our overall mission, I knew from the global sense of things where things should be moving. This would be just like playing Go, I thought. Unfortunately, when you are watching a game, you can be at least three levels stronger than players caught up in the midst of the game. In Go, the number of handicap stones you place on the board for a weaker player before play begins signifies the difference in your levels. The applicable rule of Go in this situation was "kibitzers gain three stones." As kibitzer turned player, I remained oblivious to the rule, despite the rule's enforcing its truth on me throughout the day, and the rule was off by about three or four stones, unfortunately in the wrong direction.

In serious Japanese Go tournaments, the two competitors square off typically in a traditional tatami room with all the accoutrements and pageantry a simple traditional game like Go can muster. But high above the board is the reminder that the game has come into the modern era. A camera mounted above displays the moves of the two focused competitors on a viewing screen in an adjoining room for other professional Go players to watch as the events unfold. Usually, the gallery in the other room tries variations on plays, as the two players competing sweat and toil oblivious to their deliberations. What always struck me as interesting was that despite all the horsepower of brains and experience and detachment from the game in the viewing room, there'd still be the occasional surprise move from one of the competitors.

While you can put things on the board in these offshoot galleries and talk and research variations on the board - a big advantage over being forced to do this work in your head as the two players in the midst of the competition are doing - the players in the match are able to come up with a deeper play, something unexpected that gets the gallery chatting up a frenzy and actually proves out, through the throng's research, to be a bit of genius. I asked one day what this was. When you are the one in the game and the meaning of the game becomes your whole world, someone on the outside, even with the benefit of detachment, cannot feel every nuance, cadence, or tickle that you, in the element, can see. On the one side I was damned by my kibitzer's cockiness; on the other, I was damned for never being the person in the hot seat, the player.

My first day on the hot seat started off just rosy. Two of our contractors were in a heated battle over tearing down a shed at our old mill site. Knowing one of the contractors was the one more important to us politically, I intended to side with that contractor. Certainly, in the overall scheme of things, I had learned the value of politics. That's global thinking, I thought. Nonetheless, as I started to side with him, I found that the conversation was going in a direction we didn't want to go as a company.


Excerpted from The Way of Go by Troy Anderson Copyright © 2004 by Troy Anderson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents




Chapter 1 Global Local

Chapter 2 Owe Save

Chapter 3 Slack Taut

Chapter 4 Reverse Forward

Chapter 5 Us Them

Chapter 6 Lead Follow

Chapter 7 Expand Focus

Chapter 8 Sorry

Appendix: How to Play Go


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