Strategic Business Thinking

Strategic thought is strongly influenced by one’s conception of war and peace. Some tend to regard war as a human aberration and peace as a normal situation. Others, in contrast, are inclined to accept that nations are constantly entangled in a peaceful competitive battle that is fought with economical and political means. One should discern a continuum that exists between two extremes; at one end complete Peace (status quo) and at the other end Total War; it is not a black and white view. Even in times of peace there is always economic rivalry and the business firm plays an important role in that battle. That is one of the reasons why governments and politicians support firms in their own country.

Such firms are considered strategic because:

– They are important for the economy (export, employment);

– They are important for maintaining a technological ascend;

– They are important because they are a basis for economic independence (autarky).

Because of the changing environment the conceptions about military strategy are not static but are constantly in a state of development and adaptation. Especially the technological developments after 1945, the advent of ballistic missiles and the nuclear bomb, had a profound influence on contemporary strategic thought. Concepts like ‘mutual assured destruction’ (MAD) and “balance of terror” emerged which influenced politics and strategic thinking. Because the environment of the modern enterprise differs considerably from these notions, we have elected not to include the nuclear dimension in this manuscript.

The present day world of business can be well compared with European political relations as they existed in the Middle Ages. That world consisted out of a kaleidoscopic patchwork of competing small kingdoms, duchies, dioceses and city-states, to name a few. They were frequently at war and often employed mercenaries like the Swiss pike men and the Italian condotieri. Only much later, by marriage, alliances, heritage and conquest, did larger nation-states (read: corporations) slowly emerge. For instance, present day Italy only exists a mere 140 years (since 1871). Before 1871 Italy consisted of many small states, republics, city-states (like Naples) and kingdoms (like Sicily).