Imagine a situation when you are under siege. Your army is small, your position is weak and a stronger enemy is at your gates.
This doesn’t have to be just in times of war. This can happen in business too. You can have a small company, which is besieged by a more powerful rival.
However, the dynamics is similar. The key here is to keep the opposition distracted, thinking that it is business as usual, while you silently sneak out to reform your troops.
We can once again apply lessons from the “Strategemata” of Frontinus, a 1st century AD Roman general, strategist and engineer.
“In the Social War, Lucius Sulla, surprised in a defile near Aesernia by the army of the enemy under the command of Duillius, asked for a conference, but was unsuccessful in negotiating terms of peace. Noting, however, that the enemy were careless and off their guard as a result of the truce, he marched forth at night, leaving only a trumpeter, with instructions to create the impression of the army’s presence by sounding the watches, and to rejoin him when the fourth watch began. In this way he conducted his troops unharmed to a place of safety, with all their baggage and engines of war.”
“Hasdrubal, brother of Hannibal, when unable to make his way out of a defile the entrance of which was held by the enemy, entered into negotiations with Claudius Nero and promised to withdraw from Spain if allowed to depart. Then, by quibbling over the terms, he dragged out negotiations for several days, during all of which time he was busy sending out his troops in detachments by way of paths so narrow that they were overlooked by the Romans. Finally he himself easily made his escape with the remainder, who were light-armed.”
“This Spartacus, when enveloped by the troops of the proconsul Publius Varinius, placed stakes at short intervals before the gate of the camp; then setting up corpses, dressed in clothes and furnished with weapons, he tied these to the stakes to give the appearance of sentries when viewed from a distance. He also lighted fires throughout the whole camp. Deceiving the enemy by this empty show, Spartacus by night silently led out his troops.”
The key to this strategy is that you have to make the opposition think that all is as usual. Make it appear, that you are going about your business as you usually do.
However, secretly work on your escape. For a company, this can be a new innovative product, or a new market that they want to enter. If your enemy knows that you are doing this, they will take steps to prevent this.
When you make it appear that you are doing what you have been always doing, they will relax and let their guard down. They will not suspect that you are actually working on your escape. They will only learn of it, once it is too late and you have regrouped and become stronger.
This is another installment in my New Laws of Power series. Have a look at some of the previous laws and lessons: