notes on Clausewitz

I found an old notebook from 2001. I was flipping through it to see what I was doing then and found some notes from a book I was reading this book on Clausewitz — some really good stuff that applies in lots of domains outside of War.

  • Theory Shouldn’t be Dogma - The best theories guide analysis and aid in understanding.  The worst prescribe actions under specific conditions.  Interesting to note that Innovator’s Dilemma does the former, while Crossing the Chasm does the latter.
  • Fog of Uncertainty - No decision is absolutely certain, nor is the knowledge its based on.  You should recognize the areas of uncertainty (rather than pretend they don’t exist) and understand the uncertainty.  But you should make decisions anyway.   Uncertainty creates opportunity.     Also, consider this: how can you increase your opponents uncertainty?
  • Friction - no plan is ever executed  exactly as written.  Unpredictable things happen to prevent this.  make allowances and pay attention to execution.
  • Overwhelming Force - always bring to bear an overwhelming force against your targets, to bring about a decisive conclusion as quickly as possible.
  • Minimal Targets - identify the minimal set of targets necessary to achieve your goals.   Bring your force to bear against those and only those targets.
  • Speed of Movement - the speed with which your forces can be redeployed against new targets can act as a force multiplier.
  • Don’t Rely on Surprise - too often strategies are built around achieving surprise.    Surprise is difficult to achieve and unreliable at best.
  • Defense is Neutral/Negative -  A defensive posture is easier to take, but usually doesn’t advance you towards your goals.
  • Never Leave Forces Idle - always make the most of your forces by pro-actively applying them towards your objectives.

2 thoughts on “notes on Clausewitz

  1. Peter,

    I have that book but never got around to reading it. Still drilling through 33 Strategies of War. Will probably run through On Strategy when I’m finished.


  2. Peter,
    Excellent book.
    It was very interesting for me to read it as well. But there is another that I’ve examined recently and can suggest for your reading. If I’ll be correct in translation from Lithuanian, it is Sun Tsu “Art of War”.
    In business it is like living in constant war, so in order to survive in business, its interests, you have to follow the same strategy as in war.
    “Art of War” guided the wisdom of Napoleon, the German generals of World War II years, and even the Americans in planning the operation “Desert Storm”.

    Albertas D

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