The Art of Strategy: Intelligence

13. How to use intelligence to create foreknowledge

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Photo: Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash.

What is strategy? Why do you need it? How do you do it? And, how can you be more certain to succeed? The Art of Strategy provides timeless answers to these eternal questions. It is a modern reading of Sun Tzu’s Art of War using the lenses of strategists John Boyd and Simon Wardley (swardley). (All parts; other reading and viewing formats).

Sun Tzu

Engagements and entering new areas drain the organization severely — psychologically, socially and financially:
existing and new areas in turmoil;
people on the move, exhausted;
stakeholders unable to cope.

Engagements lasting several years could be decided in a single day.
And yet, there are miserly people unwilling to fund intelligence operations.

This is complete lack of compassion;
this is lack of leadership;
this is obstructing stakeholders,
this is the path to failure.

Skilled leadership move towards success and achievements
more valuable than all others
thanks to foreknowledge of competition’s intentions and actions.

Foreknowledge is beyond rumors and stories,
beyond analogy with past events,
beyond assessments only.

It is obtained from people who know competition’s setup first hand.

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諜 (Dié) Intelligence. Calligraphy © Hisayo Oki

There are five types of intelligence: local, inside, double, live and expendable.

Local intelligence from competitors’ people.

Inside intelligence from competitors’ leadership.

Double intelligence from competitors’ intelligence operations.

Live intelligence from people who return with first hand reports.

Expendable intelligence is spreading misinformation.

Use all five in secrecy to gather information like catching fish in a net by pulling a single cord. This is invaluable for stakeholders.

For the organization, intelligence operations is
the most closely held,
the most generously rewarded,
the most secretly treated.

Intelligence operations need wisdom and compassion.
Intelligence operations need subtlety and sensitivity to find the truth.

Subtle beyond subtleties, intelligence operations can be used everywhere.

If confidential information leaks, people who know are to be removed from the operation.

The more extreme the action, the more detailed the foreknowledge;
seek it from people inside competition’s intelligence operations:
pay, turn and employ them for double intelligence.

From double intelligence we find local and inside intelligence;
from double intelligence we know how and when to use live intelligence;
from double intelligence we learn how to use expendable intelligence.

Skilled leadership know all five types of intelligence operations.
This knowledge comes from double intelligence.
Therefore, treat those who provide it with utmost generosity.

There are modern examples of organizations using double intelligence to succeed.

Only skilled leadership with skilled people in intelligence operations are certain to succeed.

Intelligence operations are essential for strategy;
the organization trusts them for every move.


From A Discourse on Winning and Losing.

Napoleon: Evolve plan with appropriate variations each of which correspond to probable or possible actions. Employ Intelligence/recce units (spies, agents, cavalry, etc.) in predetermined directions to eliminate or confirm hypotheses concerning enemy actions thereby reduce uncertainty and simplify own plans as well as uncover adversary plans and intentions.

Blitzkrieg: Intelligence (signal, photo, agent . . . ), reconnaissance (air and ground), and patrol actions probe and test adversary before and during combat operations to uncover as well as shape changing patterns of strengths, weaknesses, moves, and intentions.

Modern Guerrilla Campaign: Exploit subversion of government and conversion of people to guerrilla cause to create an alien atmosphere of security and intelligence in order to “blind” regime to guerrilla plans, operations, and organization yet make “visible” regime’s strengths, weaknesses, moves, and intentions.

Counterguerrilla Campaign: Infiltrate guerrilla movement as wellas employ population for intelligence about guerrilla plans, operations, and organization.

Observe, orient, decide, and act more inconspicuously, more quickly, and with more irregularity . . . or put another way
Operate inside adversary’s observation — orientation — decision — action loops or get inside his mind-time-space . . . permits one to probe and test adversary, and any allies that may rally to his side, in order to unmask strengths, weaknesses, maneuvers, and intentions.


From On 61 Different Forms of Gameplay.

I cannot emphasize [more] the importance of situational awareness before using … these plays.

The Art of Strategy: All Parts

Contents: A very short summary of each part
Introduction: What is strategy and why do you need it?

  1. Assessments: How to assess, prepare and shape
  2. Challenges: How to use and reduce inertia, entropy and friction
  3. Success: How to succeed together with stakeholders
  4. Setup: How to create resilience
  5. Momentum: How to use creativity focus and timing
  6. Shaping: How to shape and avoid being shaped
  7. Engagement: How to engage using surprise
  8. Adaptations: How to adapt to shifting situations
  9. Movements: How to move to optimize momentum
  10. Landscape: How to approach difficult areas
  11. Situations: How to handle difficult situations
  12. Disruption: How to disrupt and avoid being disrupted
  13. Intelligence: How to use intelligence to create foreknowledge

Annex: Wardley Mapping Examples
Glossary: Explanation of key terms and symbols
Acknowledgements: Standing on the shoulders of giants
Sources: Where to learn more
Other reading and viewing formats

This is provided as Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International by the author, Erik Schön.

Written by

Executive and strategist who has successfully developed and deployed strategy for over 20 years in small, medium and large organizations.

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