A soldier who has experienced all battles under Napoleon is therefore not yet a good strategist.

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According to Frederick the Great, the mere passing through of an event is therefore not sufficient to master the discipline disputed in it [1]. Working for start-ups hence does not turn an employee into a great entrepreneur. But how do you manage to take most of what you have experienced with you and can these lessons even be transferred to new situations?

As the director of a start-up centre and as a university lecturer focusing on innovation, I meet many entrepreneurs and managers for professional reasons. Over the years and countless conversations I have noticed one thing: Only those who critically reflect on what they have experienced, recognise connections and patterns, can benefit from them in future. Reflecting on what you have experienced can be exhausting. Any negative situations must be re-lived. It also takes time to think about it. Especially in our stressful and fast-moving world there is little room for reflection. 

When was the last time you took time to reflect on your day or certain incidents?

And does this reflection effort pay off at all? Can learnings from one situation be transferred to another? To answer this question, a differentiated approach is necessary. There are usually no generally valid solutions for creating a battle plan to realise a specific business idea. But there are logics, methods, principles that are useful and can be applied. However, these must be known, otherwise they cannot be used. In the search for insights that are helpful in the creation of a battle plan, I draw on the one hand on my own experience as an entrepreneur and coach of various start-ups and on the other hand on the entire spectrum of business literature. Furthermore, I am convinced that diversity of content and different perspectives are enriching. Therefore, I would like to look beyond my horizon and learn from other disciplines and their logics, methods and principles. In the world of sport or the military it is also important to achieve certain goals with given resources. In order to get from an ACTUAL to a TARGET state, a battle plan is needed, a “how?” has to be developed. 

In the military context every battle is different. 

Nevertheless, Sunzi (450BC) already describes concrete principles for planning a battle. Clausewitz (1832) also describes various principles that should be helpful in combat. However, he does not assume that they are valid for all situations, but adds that actors should know these principles, as they provide a certain benefit, if applicable. According to Clausewitz (1805), a better knowledge of the art of war increases predictability and reduces randomness. There are also certain logics whose knowledge can increase, but never guarantee, the probability of success of startups. A certain knowledge of the art of starting up and innovation is therefore advantageous in analogy to Clausewitz. I will present considerations of authors like Clausewitz or Sunzi in later contributions.

On my blog ThomasMetzler.io I develop approaches which support entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in successfully realising their innovative business ideas. In terms of content, I will dare to think outside the box and also try to learn from other disciplines – such as military and sports – and draw analogies for the founders and innovators. Like, how did Alexander the Great proceed when he planned the war-crucial battle of Gaugamela? What variables did he consider? What did his battle plan look like? And as innovators, can we learn anything from his approach? How do we plan our battles? 

Are you interested in starting up and innovation and thinking outside the box? Then it would be best to subscribe to my newsletter for new articles or network with me via LinkedIn or Instagram. Stay tuned!

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[1] Quote in the title following Antoine Henri Jomini (1779-1869). He quotes Frederick the Great in “Précis de l’art de la guerre” (1836/37), in the original: “A mule which has taken part in twenty campaigns under Prince Eugene is therefore not a good tactician”. Adapted for the purposes of the article.



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