Re: Business is War.

Dr. Ivan Blanco (
Thu, 29 Dec 1994 16:46:45 -0500

Let me try to express some of my ideas here...

> To: Con Gregg <>,
> Subj: Business is War.
<<< some stuff deleted here >>>
> I like the ecological model, but haven't yet decided how it maps to
> business. Your body has many organs which all need oxygen, yet
> rather than compete, each takes what it needs and the whole system
> survives. There is no competition between your organs. [When there
> is, we call it "cancer," and it's a Bad Thing.] Are businesses the
> organs, and industry the body? Or are industries the organs, and
> economies the body? Or are economies the organs, and the ecology the
> body?
The human body, as the level of analysis, offers us a very good
example of a system where the actions of different units (the organs) show
that they know much better how to live in almost a perfect alignment with
each other and with their external environment, and do so sometimes in
spite of what we do to it! The situation is totally different when we move
higher in the level of analysis. Then we see human beings who do not know
how to or can't live in alignment with anything, sometimes they can'y live in
harmony with themselves!

The most successful organizations are the ones who function
internally like the human body. And they are aslo able to stay aligned
with their external environments as well. Then I would say that each
organization is comparable to a human body. The industry is a collection
of bodies, and they are learning to collaborate in order to improve their
own competitiveness (Ohmae has written about this, and there is a book I
will be using by Bleeke and Ernst, "Collaborating to Compete." Kanter also
wrote a recent HBR article, about how to improve the ineteraction between

> The thing that bugs me about competition=good is that in business,
> competition is considered "to the death." Individual animals
> compete over hierarchy and territory, once they are established, they
> pretty much go about their lives. While different species compete
> for ecological niches, they do it by being better suited to the
> niche-- the system selects. They do NOT systematically identify and
> destroy competing species, some of which may be better suited to the
> overall ecology.
> [The human race may not be the healthiest ecological alternative for
> the niche we currently occupy, in which case at some point the
> systemic forces will select us OUT. It's not that cockroaches
> conspire to destroy us; it's just that with us gone, they'll be free
> to move in...]
I think that if we are going to be "selected out" it will be a
consequence of our own dysfunctional and self-destructive behavior. For
isntance, we have learned how to function in harmony with the rest of
nature. Our bias that we control things with our superior intelligence is
killing us, because we can't think... This is getting too messy!

<<< other stuff deleted here >>>

> My understanding of capitalism (remember: I'm a technoweenie, not an
> economist or political "scientist") is that whoever builds the best
> product for the lowest price "should" win. In reality, there's an
> entire field called "corporate strategy" which is all about how to
> win through other aspects of the system: locking up distribution
> channels, building switching costs, tying competitors up in court
> until they go out of business, buying up patents for substitute
> products, etc.
These, as I see them, are signs of the dysfunctional behavior I
mentioned above. They not only destroy the competition, but they destroy
us too... the thing is that we don't see it that way because the
competition goes first, and we think that we won!

> I am absolutely convinced that competition will, in the medium term,
> be great, wonderful, and beneficial to the economy and world.
> I am absolutely uncertain, but am leaning more and more towards
> thinking, that competition will, in the long term, keep us stuck in
> a rat-race type loop which slowly depletes our resources and drives
> our race towards an increasingly unhealthy (mentally and physically)
> existence.
> So here are my questions:
> * How do we understand when competition is good for a system, and
> when it isn't?
I would say that it is good for the system to point that all win
(learn, develop, evolve) together. I don't know if there is a limit to
this But I think that from time to time, when we feel the need to
re-invent our insttitutions, is because learning on the current path is not
producing but marginal wins!

> * At what levels of abstraction is competition good or not (organs
> vs. bodies)?
I think that competition is not good at body level of analysis,
it produces the "cancer" in the human body, and the self-destruction in the
organization (infighting, for instance).

> * What forms of competition are good or not (system selects vs.
> conscious selection)?
Do we have a choice?

> * If we reject the whole business-as-war metaphor, what other
> metaphors are useful? (What would the world be like if a driving
> metaphor were "business is a co-op?" or Business is a
> Broadway show. Or ...?)
> - Stever
> ---------------------------------------------------------------
> Stever Robbins
> Accept no substitutes! PGP key available upon request
> "You're only young once, but you can be immature forever."
> ================== RFC 822 Headers ==================

I would say that the metaphor could be "business is collaborating
to compete more effectively." It is not original, but I like it!


R. IVAN BLANCO, Ph.D. Voice 305 899-3515
Assoc. Prof. & Director Fax 305 892-6412
International Business Programs
Andreas School of Business _________E-Mail Addresses________
Barry University Bitnet: Blanco%bu4090@Barryu
Miami Shores, FL 33161-6695 Internet:
<<<<< ---------------- >>>>>
"Las naciones marchan hacia el termino de su grandeza, con
el mismo paso que camina su educacion." Simon Bolivar