The Art of War.
NOTE: this review is not about a similarly-titled book by Sheetz-Runkle, and not about a similarly-titled book by Huang and Rosenberg.
The “Art of War”, not such a long time ago used to be fairly unknown to the western audience. Maybe because there had already been a well-established western military tradition, represented by von Clausewitz. The Soviets, however, perhaps due to being actively involved with Asia since the very establishment, were much more open to the Eastern tradition, and the Art of War was a part of the Soviet intelligence curriculum for a long time. Eventually the West has also fallen victim to this millennia-old book on strategy and tactics, and the Art of War began its triumphant parade over the business culture. This was also partly fuelled by the very visible progress that the Asian cultures, from Mongolia to Japan, had by the end of the 20th century. One of the most prominent marks of the era was a recent British independence slogan “Will the Brexit Referendum make London the Singapore-on-Thames?”. Such an astonishing claim to be made in the former capital of the world.
The book by Ms Choo introduces the concept of the 21st century being the “Century of Asia” at the very beginning of the book. Indeed, although the book is full of citations from the Art of War, my feeling was that they were cherry-picked with the main purpose of adding Ms Choo’s book an Asian flavour, rather being the core knowledge carrier.
Maybe it’s actually for the best. To each his own, I am still planning to lay my hands on the old book itself, and thankfully, the “for Women” version was not much of a spoiler.
The second claim that is firmly made in the book is that the 21st century is going to be the century of women. That’s probably a thing that nobody is going to argue against, since the technology is making the world a much more comfortable place for women, so even though I would be more careful about attributing the whole century to just a since human trait (sex), we are definitely going (in fact we already are) seeing more female influence on the everyday life.
The core ideas.
The book is roughly structured around five aspects of success.
They bear fancy Chinese names, but for simplicity I am just writing them out in layman terms:
- Personal qualities
- Temporal properties
- Fixed properties
Each chapter is dedicated to one of the components of success, and in each of those the author tries, beyond presenting the basic concept of a component and the actions that are needed to nurture this component, some additional traits that are supposed to be more related to women than men.
Quite unsurprisingly, as the book progresses, each subsequent chapter bears less “femaleness” and more “practical guidelines”.
In general, I cannot say that I highly assess the parts that are more dedicated to the sexual dimorphism. The management chapters were quite good. I have made a lot of records, and rearranged some of my working practices, following her advice. The “female” parts, to be honest, did not help illuminating how exactly sexual dimorphism affects the differences of performance between the employees of different sexes too much. The book contains quite a lot of female encouragement and debunking of old misconceptions about women, which is a great thing, but seems to be of less use to those who have already given up those misconceptions. However, developing “conceptions” (pun intended), that is the understanding when and how exactly sexual differences can be used as a leverage, and where they should be kept in mind as a thing of concern, is sub-optimal, in my opinion.
The book is short, and can be done in a couple of evenings. It is probably worth reading as an encouraging material, although women who have already decided to be the best of themselves, are unlikely to need any more encouragement. Some anecdotal evidence is nice, it feels very nice to be able to relate yourself to some real-life examples. Some paragons of female success are also given, from various areas of life, from politicians to doctors and managers. The management-related, gender-agnostic chapters are just good and worth looking even more than once. Is it the book to be read to find out about gender differences and how to use them – perhaps not, and it is also not a good book about the “Art of War”.
The main military thought that you can derive from it is that avoiding defeat may be often a much more efficient strategy than winning a battle. After all, Suvorov is believed to be emphasising this a lot.
The Russian translation is horrible, however.
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