Ground describes external conditions that persist over time and provide resources by Gary Gagliardi

This is a great article by Gary Gagliardi of the Science of Strategy Institute on how our environment (GROUND) and how we us it to shape our strategy and tactics. The key is in understanding that different places offer different opportunities we can use to gain the advantage and exploit the opportunities presented. Be sure to check out Gary’s site www.scienceofstrategy.com for more information on strategy and Sun Tzu's Art of War.

Fred

“Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. The act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.” Peter F. Drucker

"Some commanders are not skilled in making
adjustments to find an advantage.
They can know the shape of the terrain.
Still, they cannot exploit the opportunities of
their ground."
Sun Tzu's The Art of War 7:1:16

Situation: Where we are now doesn't dictate where we can go in the long-term, but it does dictate where we can do next. We are confined by location and we move according to the laws governing space. Every location has its own shape and form. Every place is connected through space to nearby places. The challenge is understanding the laws the govern space and the shape and form of our current and nearby places.

Space is the world of shapes, textures, and resources. Place is inherently much more complicated the time. Understanding the complex nature of location and its many characteristics and capacities is at the heart of good strategy. Without the resources that we get from our location, we could not continue to survive, must less compete. In a modern world, we make a mistake in taking these resources, such as food and water, for granted, not recognizing the work that has been required throughout history to attain them.

Opportunity:  The benefit of every location is the resources that it offers. Every space offers resources. The most basic resource that every place offers its its proximity to other locations. We can advance our position by moving to better locations with more resources

We win that ability to use the resources of a given place through competition, but we translated that control into resources through production (1.9 Competition and Production). Strategic methods allow us to expand our control over our space. The more successfully we compete, the more area we control. We advance our position both by expanding our area of control and by moving to new, more bountiful areas.

StrategyGround is the term we use to discuss space, place, and location. Ground describes all external conditions that are persist over time. In the simplest terms, climate describes what changes while ground describe what persists. Strategic principles relating to the ground help us understand how we can gain control over a given ground and use it to our advantage.

We use the concept of ground to help us discuss and evaluate the nature, shape, and properties of a given location when compared to other locations.

  1. Ground is the store of all resources, except time. Unlike climate, where we must use our allotment of time ever day, the ground is a source of resources that persist over time (3.3 Excess Resources). 
  2. We cannot access the resource of ground until we earn control over it. To produce resources from the ground, we must first win control over it (1.9 Competition and Production).
  3. We earn control over ground through competition. The ground is both where we compete and what we compete for. If we were gladiators, the ground would be the coliseum because our performance there is the source of all potential awards. In business, we define the ground in terms of marketplaces and their customers. In sports, the ground is the market for customers, the market for sports talent, and the actual playing field, depending upon your focus (1.3.1 Competitive Comparison).
  4. To categorize fixtures of the ground, we separate actors from objects. Again, actors are amenable to strategic methods while objects are not. Groups of actors form a single actor when they work together. Groups of actors are objects when acting independently (1.5.2. Group Methods, 1.6.1 Shared Mission). A buyer is an actor. The sun is an object. A company is an actor, but a city (separate from its government and building) is more like an object.
  5. The physical nature of ground determines the physical resources it provides. The physical characteristics of the ground affects how we can use it and what forms of resources it offers.  Those characteristics start with physical space itself and its proximity to other locations.  In terms of defending and advancing positions, the conditions of the ground is evaluated in terms of distances, obstacles, and dangers. We categorize different form of the ground in terms uneven, fast-changing, and uncertain. Other conditions define the six extreme forms of ground. Still others discuss the terrain in terms of how it affects our relationships with others.This is the objective side of ground (1.2 Objective and Subjective Positions).
  6. The intellectual nature of ground provides mental resources. In order to make decisions, people compare the characteristics of both objects and actors, positioning them in their minds. While emotional attitudes create climate, people's skills, knowledge, and opinions persist over time making them part of the ground, the mental terrain. This is the subjective side of ground  (1.3.1 Competitive Comparison).
  7. Most of the objective and subjective aspects  of ground can be discussed in the same terms. The conditions of our mental terrain can be categorized according to same shape and form characteristics that we use to talk about physical space. We can only make good decisions about conditions when we have learned how to recognize them in physical terms.
  8. The resources available in any one location are limited. This means that only a certain amount of resource can be produced over a given period of time from a given location. This limitation is partially driven by our limited knowledge.  (3.1.1 Resource Limitations, 2.1.1 Information Limits).
  9. Our control over the ground is also limited. We never have complete control over the ground because our knowledge of nature is limited and because we compete with others  (8.1.2 Control Limits).
  10. We cannot know the cost of winning ground or the value of controlling it until we win control. This problem creates one of the fundamental challenges of strategy because it means that we cannot predict the value of ground until we control it  (2.3.2 Unpredictability).
  11. Every strategic space is associated with its own strategic climate. In the competitive environment, climate cannot be separated from ground anymore than time can be separate from space. However, we can talk about different characteristics and aspect of climate as distinct from ground, just as we can discuss aspect of the dimension of time as distinct from the dimensions of space (1.4 The External Environment).

As we go through all the major categories of strategic principles, only one other category relates to more areas of strategic thinking that strategy: the principle of ground. That is the topic of our next post.

Illustration: Each of these concepts is briefly illustrated below.

  1. Ground is the store of all resources, except time.  The capabilities of our bodies are considered the physical resources of the ground. Gold mines and oil wells product other types of ground resources.  Our reputations and skills are other forms of ground resources.
  2. We cannot access the resource of ground until we earn control over it. The only ground that we are born controlling is our own bodies. Our property, position at work, and position in the community are all forms of ground that we earn over time. 
  3. We earn control over ground through competition. If we were gladiators, the ground would be the coliseum because our performance there is the source of all potential awards. In business, we define the ground in terms of marketplaces and their customers. In sports, the ground is the market for customers, the market for sports talent, and the actual playing field, depending upon your focus.
  4. To categorize fixtures of the ground, we separate actors from objects.  A buyer is an actor. The sun is an object. A company is an actor, but a city (separate from its government and building) is more like an object.
  5. Physical nature of ground determines its resources for us. Food, water, metal, oil, and the invaluable resource of proximity come fron
  6. The intellectual nature of ground provides mental resources. People who have always bought a certain brand of car or voted for a particular party or to prefer doing a certain type of work all have a certain mental terrain.  
  7. Most of the objective and subjective aspects of ground can be discussed in the same terms. "High ground" is both a physical and mental stratgic concept. Visibility, barriers, area, and almost every other aspect of the physical ground .
  8. Our control over the ground is also limited. We control our bodies, but we cannot control our liver function. All jobs have limits on their authority. Even our control over our own property is controlled by a host of laws and conventions. 
  9. We cannot know the cost of winning ground or the value of controlling it until we win control.  We don't know how profitable a business is until we start it. We don't know the burdens of a management position until we win it. 
  10. Every strategic space is associated with its own strategic climate. The climate in California is different than the climate in Maine. The climate is the transportation industry is different from the climate in manufacturing. The climate is baseball is different from the climate is soccer.