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Judo Strategy Can Give Businesses of All Sizes a Fighting Chance

By David B. Yoffie and Mary Kwak
Published by Harvard Business School Press

 

Analogies help understand how businesses work. Yoffie’s and Kwak’s book,”Judo Strategy Can Give Businesses of All Sizes a Fighting Chance”, takes on a unique approach to the process of business growth. The authors draw on the philosophy of the Japanese martial art Judo, to fight one’s way up the economic ladder.

 

The philosophy behind Judo is simple, yet powerful. Judo principles do not imply the use of strength to fight against strength. Instead, it relies on using strategic maneuvers to subdue or immobilize one’s opponent. A Harvard Business School professor, Yoffie, and a Harvard research associate, Kwak, bases their business theories on extensive research on Judo principles and market competition. The authors punctuate their book with examples from small and large companies, demonstrating how managers can apply Judo’s core principles to develop successful business strategies. Skill, rather than strength, is the basis of Yoffie’s and Kwak’s business principles.

 

‘Judo Strategy’ includes an innovative feature called ‘judo toolbox’, which acts as a guide to using strategies; how and when to use them. The book aims to help entrepreneurs not only gain a firm foothold in the market, but also gain consistent and continued growth.

 

In their book, Yoffie and Kwak elaborate on the 3 basic principles of Judo that apply to companies as well. These are:

 

  • Movement – Movement is used to throw opponents off-balance and neutralize their moves and advantages.
  • Balance – Balance helps survive attack while engaging in competition with opponents.
  • Leverage – Leverage or advantage helps win against an opponent.

In Judo, these principles are used together to defeat an opponent. Yoffie and Kwak believe that the same can be done to subdue competition in business. According to the authors, if an entrepreneur applying Judo strategies fail, it is because they had stronger opponents, or that they violated the principles of Judo. In other words, the implementation was not correct, causing entrepreneurs to lose.

 

Yoffie’s and Kwak’s writings are a must read for business novices entering into competition with formidable, established players. Especially interesting and useful are chapters 2, 3 and 4, where the authors provide examples of companies employing principles of Judo to compete. In chapters 5, 6 and 7, the authors enunciate how company management has welcomed Judo principles to achieve success. Part III of the book focuses on competition skills; counter-attack and continued attack.

 

‘Judo Strategy’ delivers 5 practical judo principles for managers:

 

  • Focus on core business
  • Staying on the offensive without indulging in direct assaults
  • Planning and preparation for pivoting
  • Seeking out the strongest places for leveraging
  • Avoiding procrastination, active participation

Metaphors are powerful tools, useful in uncovering the common feature in dissimilar things. The use of metaphors in business can help commence active thinking. In ‘Judo Strategy’, Yoffie and Kwak uses metaphors to observe, analyze and formulate strategies for business success.