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Sun Zi Art of War: Be

Proactive, Ever Ready and
Distance Yourself from
the Competitors

Sun Zi Art of War (Sun Zi Bingfa ) is the most among business writers and analysis. The aim of this
well-known Chinese military treatise among the Chinese paper is to introduce readers to the value embedded in
as well the western world. Reportedly written around the ancient Chinese military philosophy like Sun Zi Art of War,
4th B.C., its value in influencing military thinking and war and how such philosophy can be applied to the realm
strategies has seldom been questioned. What is more of marketing and corporate strategy. Given the richness
interesting, however, is its relevance to the corporate of the contents of Sun Zi Art of War, it is impossible to
world. Increasingly, military clichés have been used in provide a comprehensive treatment of his works. As such,
the business realm and corporate boardrooms. Terms this paper has chosen to focus on two related concepts
like price wars, promotion wars, battle of the corporate of his writing - the need to be ready and proactive at all
giants, etc. have found increasing acceptance and usage times and to distance oneself from the competitors.
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Wee Chow Hou

Military strategies have often appealed to corporate strategists. Wei jia yu di, ze qi jiao bu de he
The honouring of war heroes like Colin Powell and Norman He will overpower his enemy convincingly and overawe the other
Schwarzkopf of the Persian Gulf War of 1991 and the hefty lecture states so much that none of the allies (of his enemy) would dare
fees they command in the speaking circuits of the business world unite against him.
attest to the popularity of applying military strategies and principles
to the business world. What is interesting to note is that much of
modern military thought might have been inspired by an ancient Shi gu bu zheng tian xia zhi jiao, bu yang tian xia zhi quan
Chinese military treatise, called Sun Zi Art of War. Written around Thus, he (the supreme emperor) does not have to contend with
4th B.C., this highly regarded work is a must-read text among securing alliances with other states. He does not have to foster nor
most top military academies of the world, including those in the cultivate the power of other states.
United States. Indeed, Sun Zi Art of War remains one of the most
inspiring books on military thought and philosophy that has often
been associated with applications to business. Its contents have Xin yi zhi si, wei jia yu di gu qi cheng ke ba, qi guo ke hui
commonly been cited by many businessmen in Asia and the west Rather, he relies on his supreme ability to overpower the enemy
who claimed great inspirations from the book. to achieve his own agenda and goals. Thus, he is able to conquer
cities and overthrow the states of his enemies.
With the growing economic importance of China, the interest
on things “Chinese” and understanding the mind of the Chinese Note that the supreme emperor (ba wang ) did not even
strategist will become increasingly popular. Chinese military classics have to enter into strategic alliances with his enemies. He was so
like Sun Zi Art of War provides a useful perspective in this aspect. powerful that his mighty army alone would overawe all his enemies1.
This paper hopes to contribute towards this understanding by
focusing on two related concepts of his writing - the need to be Of course, the position of the supreme emperor (ba wang )
ready and proactive at all times and to distance oneself from the reflects the ideal state or goal that an ambitious military commander
competitors. How these concepts are used in war, and how it can would seek to achieve. In reality, no matter how ambitious an army
be similarly applied to business are illustrated. To promote better may be, it will always have to contend with counter forces that
understanding of the philosophy of Sun Zi, his original writings will challenge its position. Moreover, not every army can be in the
are quoted with hanyu pinyin ( ), the commonly accepted commanding position all the time. For example, the British used to
romanised and phonetic version of pronouncing Chinese be a very powerful nation, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries.
characters, are included in the paper as well. It colonised many countries, including Australia, Canada and New
Zealand. It was so domineering that it called itself the Great Britain,
The Quest For Dominance and it created the Commonwealth countries. However, by the end
In war, one of the driving motivations behind any army is to of the 20th century, its influence gradually waned. Many of its former
dominate its enemies decisively so that none of them can pose any colonies broke away to become independent nations. By the 21st
serious threat to it. This philosophy for dominance has been clearly century, it could hardly be called the “Great” Britain anymore.
articulated by Sun Zi in his Chapter 11 on the Nine Battlegrounds
(jiu di ) when he described the power of the supreme Competition in the business world is very similar to that of
commander or emperor as follows: the military realm. Given any opportunity, a company will seek to
dominate or even monopolise the whole industry. Yet, the nature
of competition plus the intervention of regulatory controls are such
Fu ba wang zhi bing, fa da guo, ze qi zhong bu de ju that a company will always have to contend with various direct and
When a supreme emperor (commander) attacks a large state, indirect competitors. While it may lead the industry for a while, its
he ensures that it is impossible for the enemy to assemble all his position can never be assured as many of its competitors will
forces against him.

In the modern world, despite its dominant military power at the turn of the 21st century, the United States has yet to achieve the status of the supreme
emperor. It still has to rely on its strategic political and military partners, and cannot go about to conduct its affairs without taking into account the
reactions of other nations around the world. A good example was the case of its attempt to attack Iraq in late 2002. It began seeking the support of its
allies and the United Nations as early as July/August 2002, and it presented all kinds of reasons and excuses for the attack. Not surprisingly, it met with
much resistance from the rest of the world, especially from the Arabic and Islamic countries. Only Britain stood firmly behind the United States and no
attack was launched by the United States as of early December 2002.
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constantly seek to dislodge its leadership. Moreover, changes in to contemplate an attack. The need to be proactive had been
market conditions, consumer tastes and preferences, technology, expressed in many parts of Sun Zi Bingfa ( ). In this paper,
and many other factors could also threaten its ability to stay ahead I like to focus on what Sun Zi said in his Chapter 8 on Variations and
of its competitors all the time. Adaptability (jiu bian ):

Take the case of the personal computer (PC) industry. While

Dell Computers remained the number one PC company in the Gu yong bing zhi fa, wu shi qi bu lai, shi wu you yi dai ye
United States as of mid-2002, its worldwide leadership position was Thus, in the conduct of war, one must not rely on the failure of the
dislodged as a result of the merger between Hewlett Packard (HP) enemy to come, but on the readiness of oneself to engage him.
and Compaq earlier in that year. If anything, competition between
the two giants had become more intense than ever. For example,
in August 2002, Dell announced plans to market unbranded Wu shi qi bu gong, shi wu you suo bu ke gong ye
(generic) PCs through dealers and to enter the lucrative printers One must not rely on the failure of the enemy to attack, but on the
and handheld computers (like the palm-tops) markets. Printers ability of oneself to build an invincible defense that is invulnerable
and handheld computers were the traditional markets and forte of to attacks.
HP. By making plans to enter these markets, Dell was effectively
declaring “war” against HP. Of course, HP promptly returned salvo To excel in war, one has to be proactive so as to be ahead of
against Dell. The president of HP, Michael Capellas, announced the enemy at every move. It is very important to emphasise that in
later in that same month that HP would target its sales efforts at the realm of the military, the army must always maintain a highly
direct sales to customers, the traditional domain and forte of Dell. vigilant state of combat-readiness. As appropriately pointed out
Clearly, these two dominant PC players are going after each other by Sun Zi, one cannot rely on the future of the enemy to attack us.
and the competition is likely to intensify in the years ahead. Instead, one must be ever-ready to take on the enemy. Even when
there is no war, troops are trained to the highest level of combat-
Be Proactive at All Times and Situations fitness and readiness in peacetime. In fact, it is during peacetime
How then can an army or a business outfit remain competitive so as that the army can seize on the opportunity to build up its resources
not to enter the history book? How can it ensure that its leadership so as to act as a deterrent to any hostile move by the enemy. The
or competitive position will not be threatened? More importantly, following Chinese saying sums up this point well:
what kind of competitive stance or posture should it take in order to
ensure that it does not fall into a state of complacency? These are
all important issues that need to be addressed. Lian bing qian ri, yong bing yi ke
Troops are trained for thousands of days for a moment of
Effective military doctrine dictates that the best way to deter any engagement.
attacks from the enemy is to have a very strong force for offence
as well as for defense. This would include having strong military This need to be combat-ready all the time is well understood
equipment and firing power, well-trained troops and preferably, a by any military commander. By being proactive, he is able not only
larger army2 too. When war breaks out between two contesting to gain the initiative, but will have ample time and opportunity to
armies, one must never rely on the failure of the enemy to attack him. deal with the enemy. In other words, he will have more options
Instead, one must be ever ready to engage the enemy. and can respond more rationally and effectively under almost
all circumstances. Moreover, when he has the upper hand, his
Similarly, one must also build an invincible defense such that enemy will always have to be wary of him and be forced into taking
the enemy would not even dare to mount any attack. Even if the a defensive stance. On the other hand, if he adopts a reactive
enemy dares to do so, he will have to pay a high price for it. In posture, he can be lured into a false state of security as non-conflict
other words, whether in offence or defense, there is a need to or non-hostility does not mean that the enemy is not secretly
adopt a very proactive stance. For example, to attack successfully, preparing to go on the offensive against him. More seriously, when
one must know the disposition and layout of the defenses of the pressured under the constraint of time, he is unlikely to come up
enemy, his strengths and weaknesses, state of combat-readiness, with effective strategies. In fact, he will be under severe stress,
etc. To defend successfully, one must be able to predict accurately resulting in tension and even disunity within his rank-and-file. In
where the enemy is likely to attack. In this way, one can build a the worst case scenario, he could even be overthrown by his own
defense that is so strong that the enemy would not even dare people and / or troops.

In war, while the size of the army (that is, numerical superiority) will provide some definite advantages, it is not sufficient to guarantee victory.
What is more important is the quality of the troops and weaponry. This is where training becomes important. This point is emphasised in the Chapter
on Mastering Points-of-Contact under the discussion on Relative Superiority.
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Understand the Need to be Proactive and I was once called in by a company for some training cum
Combat-Ready consulting assignment. This company was in a business whereby
The need to be proactive and combat-ready all the time is the nature of the product was fairly homogeneous. As such, it
readily understood and grasped by any shrewd military general. was difficult to differentiate the product among competitors, and
The same, however, cannot be said about its applications in the consumers tended to be attracted by the lowest price offered.
business realm. In my many years of teaching this subject to The industry was also oligopolistic in nature (that is, only a few
thousands of executives around the world, many of them still fail to players). This company had the largest market share, and hence
comprehend the subtlety and implications behind the sayings by was the industry leader4. Interestingly, the other competitors in
Sun Zi. Let me illustrate with the kinds of questions that I posed to the industry would occasionally harass the leader by taking turns
my past course participants, beginning with an easy one. to drop their prices by a few percentage points. This went on for
some time. Each time when one of the smaller players dropped its
If your company is ranked, say, number two, three or four in price, the industry leader would call its own meeting to decide on
profits, market share, service quality or some other dimension in the counter strategies. Unfortunately, the corporate executives were
industry, a particular market, or product/service area, what would too concerned about defending and protecting their market share
your goal or ambition be? The obvious answer, of course, is that and customers that they forgot how to lead anymore! They behaved
you would want to be the number one, especially if your company along the seven responses highlighted earlier. As a result, each
has the capability of doing so. Any forward-looking and ambitious time when one of the smaller players dropped its price, the industry
company would definitely aspire to become number one in market also decided to drop the price by the same margin. What had
share, profits, service, quality image, etc. In fact, if it can and is happened? The leader had become a follower!
able to be number one on all these dimensions, it would want to
dominate them all. Fortunately, it did not take me too long to convince the
company that as an industry leader, it is its role to lead the industry
Now, what if you are already the number one, say in market up and to lead the industry down if necessary. To put it bluntly
share, profits, image, service quality or a combination of these and brutally, if the smaller players want to commit commercial
aspects? What would your next goal or objective be? This is where I suicide, the industry leader should oblige them by conducting their
often got very interesting responses from executives whom I lectured corporate funerals first. Of course, my advice to them was not that
to around the world. The following are some typical answers: devastating. Instead, we decided to teach the smaller players a
lesson, and then to lead them back into profitability again. This was
1. Defend the number one position. what happened.
2. Protect the number one position (whether this is in terms of
profits, market share or some other criteria). The next time around when one of the smaller players decided
3. Guard against the competitors. to drop price, the leader announced a substantially larger price
4. Maintain the leadership position. drop. In the past, it would simply match the drop. At the same
5. Sustain the number one position. time, it leaked information to the industry that should any of the
6. Try to remain as number one. smaller players decide to match its price drop, it would drop it even
7. Stay number one3. further. Suddenly, all the other smaller players realised that they had
annoyed the giant who had awakened. All the industry players took
Now, if you happen to provide one of the above responses, let the “words” of the leader seriously, as any further aggravation of the
me say that you are only half-right. By saying half-right, I mean you price war would definitely cause the demise of the smaller players
are half wrong and your answer is incomplete! This is because all and favour the biggest player.
the above answers are passive, defensive and reactive responses!
In actual fact, being number one, you are effectively the leader. As This logic is not difficult to understand. In an oligopolistic
a leader, your main role is to lead. However, if you have a passive, industry where the product is fairly homogeneous, economies
defensive and reactive mindset, you are likely to end up behaving of scale typically favours the biggest player, that is, the biggest
likewise, that is, following instead of leading. This effectively player has the lowest cost of production (see footnote 4). More
violates the sayings as advocated by Sun Zi. Let me illustrate with importantly, if one of the smaller players exits the market, its market
an example. share will be distributed among the remaining players. All things
being equal, it is likely to favour the biggest player as it probably

Of course, at times, I do get other extreme answers like kill the number two and eliminate all competitors. These answers, to my mind, are rather
ruthless and questionable responses in the realm of business competition and are likely to evoke strong reactions from any commentator and critic.
It is important to point out that in such a market situation, economies of scale will always favour the biggest competitor. As such, it enjoys great cost
advantage and has more leeway to lower price in order to take advantage of the price-sensitive consumers.
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has the largest distribution outlets. When this happens, its (the an open price war against the leader. This is because they risk being
biggest player) cost curve will be pushed down further and its “clobbered” by the leader. The retail gasoline industry in Singapore
competitiveness enhanced. is a good illustration. Few of the smaller players (e.g. Caltex, British
Petroleum and Exxon) would like to take on Shell directly on a price
Having taught the smaller players a lesson, the industry leader war. This is because the market share of Shell is more than double
then decided to lead them back into profitability. It announced a that of its nearest rival at any one time.
price increase of about 10 per cent that would only take effect
about one month after the date of announcement. This move was It is true that for global companies like Shell, Caltex, British
strategic. It was a way of signalling to the rest of the industry players Petroleum and Exxon, they can still wage price wars within a
about the intention to lead them “out of the woods.” Should the particular market or region by adopting a cross-subsidy strategy in
other players choose not to follow, the leader would still have ample order to buy into market share. However, there is still a limit to its
time to change his mind closer to the date of implementation. success. This is because each market or region must still account
Not surprisingly, all the other industry players announced similar for its bottom line in the medium and long run. While some losses
price increases to be effected at the same date, all within a few may be acceptable in the short run, no other market or region is
days after the announcement by the leader. After been disciplined, prepared to subsidise another one on a long term basis.
they were in fact, waiting for the leader to make the first move.
The Need for Distancing
The above example illustrates the behaviour of companies What then should the appropriate answer be if you are already
in industries like retail gasoline where the product is basically the number one? Of course, in war, you can seek to destroy your
homogeneous and the industry is served by a few players (that is, an enemies. In business, however, you do not actively go about
oligopolistic market structure). Typically, within a particular market, the destroying the competitors. This would project the company as very
leading producer would dominate by virtue of its size and extensive ruthless and without moral principles. However, while you may not
distribution outlets. It is very difficult for the smaller players to wage go about destroying your business competitors, it does not mean

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that they do not aspire to put you out-of-business. Without doubt, making mistakes. This, in turn, will spur greater willingness to think
many companies would wish that there are fewer and weaker and act outside the box. The whole process moves like a vicious
competitors around. In this way, they would not have to work so cycle, each propelling and spiralling the development of the other.
hard for their market shares and profits! It is a very simple, yet powerful concept that only the enlightened
companies are able to master it.
Instead of destroying the competitors, a more appropriate stance
would be for the leader to distance itself from the competitors5. On the other hand, when the gap over the competitors is very
By distancing itself from the rest of the field, it would be harder narrow, the leading company actually becomes vulnerable by
and harder for the competitors to catch up. In fact, if the gap default. This is because when the gap is very narrow, it becomes a
becomes too big, the competitors may even give up chasing! More most logical, achievable and acceptable target for the competitors
importantly, the concept of distancing can be applied to a company to take it down. Not only that, when the margin is very narrow, it
even if it may not be in the number one position. For example, if a becomes a motivating factor to the competitors. This is because
company is in the number two position, its goal would be to catch they will be fired and charged up even more to take down the
up and overtake the number one. However, it is equally important leader as winning is clearly within reach. Indeed, in business
that it distances itself from the rest of the competitors. In this way, it is competition, the most regrettable situation is to provide motivation
assured of the runner-up position while going for the champion! to the competitors.

Interestingly, there are several reasons why it is so important to Table 1 provides a list of contrasting leadership behaviour that
distance oneself from the rest. Let me illustrate with the game of are likely to affect any company. Clearly, when a company is in
basketball. When the score is 62 to 60, 74 to 72, 86 to 84, and so a leadership position, it should always attempt to widen its gap
on (that is, the difference between the two teams is only two points over its competitors if it wants to become even more successful.
apart), what would your answers be to the following questions: In fact, when the gap is very wide, the competitors may be so
demoralised that they are forced to be contented to remain as
1. Which team do you think will be under greater stress? followers. Not surprisingly, those companies who know how to
2. Which team is more willing to take risks? master the concept of distancing will never cease to expand its
3. Which team will be afraid of making mistakes? leadership position even further. The quest to become even bigger
4. Which team is likely to be more innovative and creative? by corporate giants like Microsoft, Intel, Dell Computers and many
others may also become easier to understand once readers can
Think of the answers carefully. Not surprisingly, many of you will grasp the inherent power of distancing.
say that the team that is behind by only two points is likely to be
more willing to take risks and to innovate. Conversely, the team that How To Distance Oneself From The Competitors?
is marginally ahead is more afraid to make mistakes, is less willing Having understood the need for distancing, how does a company
to take risks, and is under more stress and tension! The logic is very go about doing it? Of course, when such a company is not in the
simple. The guy behind is too close for comfort! As a result, the leadership position, it can always learn from those who are ahead
team that is leading is forced to take a more conservative posture to of it. However, if the company is already in the leading position,
defend its position. where and who else can it learn from? Let me venture to say that
it can learn from many sources. In fact, there is no limit to learning
This is where the irony lies. To be a leader, there is a need to if one has the right attitude. This is captured by the following
continue to innovate and be creative. This implies the necessity Chinese saying:
to take risks and the ability to tolerate and accommodate
mistakes. Only then can the people in the organisation be willing to
experiment, develop new ideas and concepts. All these can flourish Dang ni xiang xue xi de shi hou, lao shi zi ran hui chu xian
much better if the organisation has enough “capital” and “buffer”to When you (the student) is ready to learn, the teacher will
do so. This is where distancing becomes so crucial. It allows the appear naturally.
leading company to have sufficient breathing space to develop new
ideas and innovations, and accomplish them with minimal tension Indeed, there are many ways in which a company can learn.
and stress. In other words, the greater the space, the greater is the The following are some examples.
freedom to carry out innovative and creative works without fear of

Distancing, as used here, refers more to the widening of the gap between the leader and its competitors in the market place. Within a company,
the leader (for example, the managing director or chief executive officer) should never attempt to widen his gap over his potential successors and
subordinates. Such a behaviour would be undesirable for teamwork and will affect overall corporate performance. Just like in war where a general
cannot win a war without the backing of his troops, no corporate leader can win business wars without the strong support of his rank-and-file.
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Table 1: Contrasting Leadership Behaviour


1. Forced to guard against competitors Competitors are wary of moves by leader

2. Limited economies of scale Great economies of scale
3. Cannot afford to take high risks Can afford to take high risks
4. Can become conservative and less innovative More scope for innovation and creativity
5. Under stress from competitors Stress is more self-induced
6. Afraid to make mistakes Great leeway to accommodate mistakes
7. Tend to use more tactics Time to plan and strategise
8. Tend to be reactive and defensive Can be proactive and be on the offensive
9. Forced to take more short term measures Able to take long term perspectives
10. Can be harassed by the competitors Can demoralise the competitors
11. Less market and lobbying power More market and lobbying power
12. Difficult to dictate nor set the market trends Able to dictate and set the market trends

Learn From Direct and Indirect Competitors The result was that KFC had over the years introduced menu items
For a company that is in a leadership position, the temptation is to that were popular with the Chinese population. These included
look down on its competitors. This, precisely, is the kind of mistake Chinese-style vegetable soups, porridge and other dishes that cater
that it should never make. Arrogance typically comes before a fall, to the local taste buds7.
as depicted by the following Chinese saying:
Interestingly, KFC was not alone in doing this. In Hong Kong,
McDonald's introduced McRice meals8 in July 2002 that caused
Jiao bing bi bai great unhappiness among the small restaurants and local food
A proud and arrogant army is bound to face defeat. operators. In contrast to the western fast food chains, the local
food operators in many Asian economies have been very slow to
Instead, a company should maintain a positive attitude towards learn from them, especially in the realm of marketing, management
learning: and innovation. As a result, when McDonald's introduced McRice
meals in July 2002, many small local Chinese restaurants and food
operators cried foul. They could only complain when such things
Ju shang er bu jiao happened, but did little to improve their modes of operations over
When one is at the top, one should not be arrogant. the years. Ironically, it is generally acknowledged that these local
small Chinese restaurants and operators actually provide better
This is because there are still useful lessons that can be learned quality and tastier food that suit the local palate. What they lack are
from direct competitors who may be smaller but more agile and management and marketing skills and knowledge. Fortunately, the
adaptive. Take the case of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in China. larger local food operators have begun to respond more decisively
Since opening its first branch in Beijing in 1987, it had expanded by learning from these western fast food chains. For example, air-
tremendously over the years. It opened its 700th restaurant in conditioned local food courts have begun to appear and compete
Shenzhen in late September 2002, and was the largest foreign fast directly with these western fast food chains in major Asian cities of
food chain in China. In fact, it led the other western fast food chains Singapore, Hong Kong and Taipei.
in China by a very comfortable margin6. One would be tempted to
think that given its great success, it would have very little to learn In the case of China, local fast food operators have also begun
from its competitors, especially from the small local Chinese food to emerge since the late 1990s. The more notable ones include Da
operators. However, KFC did not rest on its laurels. Instead, it Niang Dumpling (da niang jiao zi ), Peking Duck (bei jing
sought to learn from the product offerings of smaller food operators. kao ya ), Ma Lan Noodles (ma lan la mian )

McDonald's was ranked second as of September 2002, and had about 500 outlets in China.
Clearly, such dishes were also in response to customers’ needs and wants.
These were basically local-style rice dishes that came with some vegetables and meat.
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and King of Noodles (mian dian wang )9. While modest in Having learned from the competitors, two foreign banks,
their beginnings, these Chinese fast food operators are starting to namely Standard Chartered Bank and Citibank, chose to compete
pose some creditable challenges to the western fast food chains. differently by focusing on special deals to each individual customer.
However, they still have a long way to go, and much can still be Citibank, for example, offered cash rebates and discounts, including
learned from their western counterparts, especially in the realm of interest-free renovation loans, high yield current accounts to
innovative marketing and effective management of product quality, offset the higher mortgage rates and other benefits that effectively
production systems and procedures. reduced the cost of borrowing. Standard Chartered Bank, on the
other hand, offered interest rates on deposits that were similar to
Useful ideas can be gained from indirect competitors as that of the mortgage rate charged to the customer10. By taking
well. Take the logistics industry as an example. Today, logistics such approaches, these two banks avoided been drawn into direct
companies compete against the traditional shipping and comparison with the mortgage rates offered by other banks. It also
transportation companies on the one hand and the more modern enabled them to sell their packages differently as well as to provide
courier companies on the other hand. Shipping and transportation strong differentation and customisation of their offers according to
companies are equipment heavy and excel in managing at the the needs of their customers. By varying their competitive tactics,
ports of call and movement of bulky and large volume items. Time these two banks managed to hold on to their market shares
is important but not in terms of speed of movement. It is more in extremely well.
terms of consistency of scheduled arrivals and departures. Cost
is also an area of high concern as the margins are thin. As such, Learn From Other Industries and Businesses
utilisation and deployment of assets are keys to its success. Learning from other industries and businesses is another way to
Courier companies, on the other hand, excel in documentation, get ideas to distance oneself from the competitors. This is because
information technology and the movement of small, high value and many practices used in one industry can be adapted or be applied
low volume items. Time, in terms of speed of delivery, is critical as to another industry as well. The hospital industry is a case in point.
a competitive factor. Their businesses tend to focus more on higher For many years now, the top-end hospitals have adopted many
margin deliveries on a door-to-door basis. practices used in five-star hotels. Today, a top-end hospital boasts
of having valet parking, in-house movies, customised menus, fine
Interestingly, the logistics business has grown tremendously dining outlets, high quality shops, personalised check-ins, payment
over the last 10 years largely by learning from the courier, shipping by credit cards, etc. These facilities and services are similar to that
and transportation companies. Its growth was largely by integrating provided by a five-star hotel.
the best of both approaches to solving the delivery problem.
Not surprisingly, an increasing number of shipping and courier Similarly, Acer Computer, a leading company from Asia, learned
companies are now expanding into the logistics business as well. its inventory control practices through studying the system used
by McDonald's. This may seem odd, considering the differences
Here, I must point out that learning from direct and indirect between Acer and McDonald's. What can a mature, ordinary,
competitors is not confined to learning about the good practices western fast food chain teach a fast growing, relatively high
only. At times, valuable lessons can be gained by understanding technology firm based in Asia? The truth was, it did, and this brings
the mistakes made by competitors too. In this way, one can avoid to mind another interesting Chinese saying:
the same pitfalls. More importantly, learning from the mistakes
and pitfalls of the competitors will enable a company to find new
ways and / or alternative ways and methods to compete. In fact, Zhi ji zhi duan, bu yan ren zhi chang
it will help the company to think outside the box. Let me illustrate Be conscious of your own shortcomings and never scorn the
with an example of the housing mortgage war that erupted among strengths of others.
banks in Singapore in 2002. Many banks took the direct approach
of competing merely on mortgage rates. This approach was very Indeed, different kinds of businesses will have their unique
direct and allowed the consumer to make comparisons, and hence and perhaps strong modes of operations or business practices
to shop for better rates from one bank to another. Not surprisingly, that can inspire others. One should never overlook them. With the
it created a downward spiralling effect, forcing the banks to reduce great access to information (for example, through the Internet and
their rates even further. One bank even offered a rate as low as web-based databases) and availability of technology, it has become
1.33% per annum on a monthly declining balance basis. easier to learn from others. Moreover, the boundaries of competition
across products and industries have also become blurred as a

The names are translated. Da Niang originated from Jiangsu Province, Peking Duck and Ma Lan originated from Beijing, while the King of Noodles
started in Shenzhen.
Superficially, this seemed to imply that the customer was paying zero interest rate on the mortgage. In reality, this was not the case as the size of the
mortgage loan taken out by the average customer would always be many times larger than the amount of deposit that he/she had with the bank.
31 • S I N G A P O R E A C C O U N T A N T • J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 0 4

result of technology and the multi-disciplinary nature of businesses lunch box meals at a price of HK$15 to HK$16 each11 in
today. Take the case of Dell Computers. Its computer is made up October 2002. There were other reasons for 7-Eleven to get into
of parts and components supplied by everyone else. Its success is the local eatery business, despite being a traditional grocery store.
not dependent on research and development nor manufacturing. The economy of Hong Kong had remained weak as of 2002 and
Yet, it is able to build up a world class company. Its components there were pressures to increase its revenue base. More importantly,
and parts are outsourced, but it has a sophisticated information 7-Eleven stores were located conveniently all over Hong Kong in
management system that manages both the supply and demand very high traffic areas. By packing the meals into lunch boxes, they
side of its business, and it ensures speedy and timely delivery became easy take-away items like any convenient product.
of its highly customised products to a mass market! Its model To differentiate itself from other food operators, 7-Eleven claimed
also has strong elements of direct marketing tactics and efficient that its lunch box meals were healthier than others, and even
management of financial cash flow and payments. Clearly, the Dell placed the calorie count of each meal on its box label. Certainly,
model contains many useful lessons for other businesses. not only did 7-Eleven learn from other businesses, it also provided
some useful lessons for others to learn from it too.
Another insightful example of how a company learned from other
businesses is the case of 7-Eleven, an international convenience Learn From Own Employees
store chain, in Hong Kong. Realising that McDonald’s managed to Employees, especially those in sales, customer service, and delivery
attract a good following of local customers with its McRice Meals are often in close contacts with customers and the market. As a
that were priced at HK$22, 7-Eleven decided to enter this market result, they have over the course of their dealings, a rich pool of
with a more aggressive strategy. It launched seven different kinds of knowledge on how the products and/or services are received by

In fact, the lunch box meals were launched at a promotional price of HK$10 each for a two-week period from 1st October 2002. It also sold the lunch
box meals at hefty discounts of up to 50% after 3 pm each day. This hefty price discount is also a sales tactic that is commonly practiced by the
bakery section of large supermarkets and hotels to remove its end-of-day items that have short shelf lives.

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the customers. In addition, they probably have intimate information consumer will provide the best idea, sampling a cross section of
on competitive products and services too. They form a valuable them through skilfully conducted market research can reveal very
pool of resources awaiting to be tapped. When deployed effectively, useful information. This willingness to learn from everyone, including
they could also be used to find out more information about the the consumers, is like the following Chinese saying:
changing tastes and preferences of existing customers as well as to
gather business intelligence on the competitors too. The challenge,
however, is that the top management of the company must realise San ren xing bi you wo shi
that such a great potential exists, and they must be humble enough When I walk in the company of three people, there is surely a
to learn from and through their own subordinates, as reflected by teacher among them.
the following Chinese saying:
Any marketing-oriented company will know that its customers
form the key to its success and provide the lifeline to its business.
Bu chi xia wen Today, an increasing number of companies are trying to find out
There is no shame in learning from people who are junior to us. more about their customers through data-mining, surveys, focus
group interviews, and other means. Their aim is to find ways to
In fact, one of the most effective ways that a company can serve their customers better as well as to find ways to differentiate
benefit from its employees is to use them as agents to collect their product / service offerings from their competitors.
market information on its products, services, competitors, and other
market feedback directly from the customers. The sales people are Let me cite two examples on how leading companies learn from
one such potential pool of information gathering agents. Instead their users and customers. The first one is Singapore Airlines (SIA).
of hounding them day and night to meet sales quota, a company In mid-2002, SIA did something very unusual. It conducted a series
should also consider how it can use them to get closer to its of meal tasting tests among very young children who flew on its
customers. To motivate them to do so, the performance evaluation airlines. The purpose was to find the meals that are most suitable
of the sales people can include an additional criterion such as and palatable to young children. This was because SIA discovered
“What new or additional things have you learned from the clients” that its frequent flyers include young children and the number
during the last or past few visits. In addition, the sales people has been increasing over the years. As a leading airline, it was
can be made to share such information openly at sales meetings. determined to find ways to distance itself from the offerings of its
They can then be rewarded according to the type and value of competitors. Catering to the taste buds of young children becomes
information that can be implemented in ways that help increase the another competitive means to achieve this objective.
sales and service performances of the company.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) is another
This seemingly naive and simple question about “What new world class organisation that has won countless awards for its
things/lessons have you learned from the clients,” can yield management of the Changi International Airport. Like SIA, it has
surprising results. For example, when trying to learn more about been consistently rated as the best in its class by numerous
the needs and requirements of the customers, the sales people international bodies. However, CAAS is not contented to rest on
will inevitably find out more information about the strengths and its laurels. As of 2002, it had developed mass rapid transit (MRT)
weaknesses of their products and services as well as those of the connection right to its terminals.
competitors. They may even be able to obtain valuable feedback
about market conditions and trends. More importantly, when the More importantly, as of 2002, CAAS had already finalised plans
sales people are able to share information among themselves, they to build a third terminal despite the fact that its current two terminals
are also promoting learning and teamwork within the company. were more than adequate to handle the volume of traffic for many
As a result of sharing and learning, motivation and morale of the more years. The building of a third terminal is part of its quest
sales team will also be further reinforced. The result is that sales to provide even better services and to distance itself from other
may be increased while achieving a higher level of customer sales international airports. Many of the new features to be incorporated
satisfaction. These are all positive outcomes for the image and in the third terminal have been the result of feedback by users of the
reputation of the company. airport. At the same time, improvements to the existing two terminals
are made regularly. The challenge of being in the leadership position
Learn From Consumers and Users can be very onerous. While SIA and CAAS may be highly respected
Consumers and users of products and services provide another by their competitors, the users/customers and the market, they do
rich source to obtain ideas on how to improve and distance not rest on their laurels. They know that such accolades do not mean
oneself from the competitors. After all, a company exists to cater that they are immune from making mistakes. They can still risk being
to the needs of consumers, and as such it should always attempt dislodged by their competitors. As such, they have consistently
to address their needs, tastes and preferences. While not every attempted to learn from others, including from their users. In fact,
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they are known to conduct surveys and interviews with their users a high price premium for branded products, they are more willing
frequently. They do so because they are not contented with just being to scale back their expenses on items where product quality has
the number one, nor are they satisfied with merely protecting and become very high and standardised. Secondly, more established
maintaining their existing status. Rather, they are always striving to retailers such as Marks & Spencer, well-known for its own house
distance themselves from the rest of the field. brands, entered the Asian market. Some local retailers had also
grown bigger with strong market presence. As a result, house
Learn From Channel and Distribution Members brands are no longer perceived as low quality products. Thirdly, and
By now, readers will know that no leader or leading company is which I think is a very important factor, is that these retailers have
immune from making mistakes. To avoid making mistakes and taken a different route in the creation and development of their own
to improve continuously, one has to learn from as many sources house brands, something that the original brand manufacturers
as possible. This includes learning from distribution and channel should take notice of and learn from them accordingly. Let me
members. explain with the case of Singapore.

The following Chinese saying puts it well: House brands used to be rejected by the average Singaporean
consumer 10 years ago. However, it is no longer the case. This is
evidenced by the fact that NTUC FairPrice, the largest supermarket
Zhi zhe qian lü, bi you yi shi chain in Singapore, doubled the number of its products that carry
Even the wise are not always free from error. its house brands from 200 in 1997 to 400 in 2002. Guardian, a
pharmacy chain store, increased its house brand products by five
For companies who rely on various kinds of distribution times within a two year period to 250 as of 2002. Cold Storage,
channels to reach out to the consumers, the channel members are another supermarket chain also had several hundred house brand
another important source to solicit and obtain valuable ideas and products. Other than the reasons mentioned earlier, the strategies
inputs. The value of channel member can be easily illustrated in the taken by these retailers are useful lessons for the manufacturers of
retail business. Very often, a good salesman can change the brand the traditional branded products.
of the product that a customer wants to buy at the point of sale
despite the fact that he may be carrying that brand. This is because To begin with, these retailers which are now big players, take an
he understands the needs and wants of the customer, and is able active interest not only in sourcing their products, but in determining
to influence the purchase decision. What this means is that he is in their quality as well. Some of them are known to work closely with
a much stronger position than the manufacturer in influencing the their suppliers/manufacturers who lack the resources to develop
decision of the consumer. their own brands. In addition, more attention are now paid to the
packaging of the products. They now come in equally attractive
Not surprisingly, the more enlightened companies have and high quality packaging just like traditional branded products.
developed very strong relationships with their dealers and agents. More interestingly, some of these retailers even develop their own
They realise that dealers and agents not only can help them to brands that do not carry the name of the store. For example, Cold
market their products and brands, but can push them harder over Storage used a brand name First Choice for some of its house
competitive products and brands too. A good example is the story brands. It even developed a very popular brand, French Cellers, for
of how the Japanese luxury car, Lexus, managed to penetrate its wine collection. Some products by Guardian are marketed under
successfully into the U.S market in the 1980s against the very the brand of Angel. These retailers also promote their house brand
established continental brands like Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar. products very aggressively through media advertising.
Among other reasons for its success, the role played by the dealers
was often cited as a major factor. As a result of such efforts, the quality and image of house
brands have improved substantially over the past few years. With
There is an interesting trend that has emerged in the more more discerning consumers who are able to appreciate that quality
developed economies of Asia, and this concerns the marketing need not come at higher prices and who have high confidence in
of house brands. Despite its successes in the west among reputation of these established retailers, these relatively cheaper
supermarket and departmental store businesses12, house brands house brands have been making increasing penetration into the
had never taken off in economies like Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan traditional brands. These are precious lessons that manufacturers of
and Singapore. However, house brands showed possible signs branded goods cannot afford to ignore.
of acceptance in recent years for several reasons. Firstly, the
economic downturn and recession played a big part in the Learn From Consultants and Trainers
rationalisation of purchases by Asian consumers. Instead of paying Readers may be interested to know that in ancient China, the

A good example is that of Marks & Spencer which has a very well developed in-house line of products that are marketed under its own
stores worldwide.
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employment of foreign talents (ke qing ) was commonly industries are good examples. Typically, colours, patterns, cuts and
practiced. These foreign talents were actually non-native officials designs go through cycles in the fashion industry. What is hype
who were employed in various advisory roles and positions, such as today will be cast in the shadow. Yet, what is considered as long
military consultants, advisors, and trainers. Sun Zi mentioned such gone may make surprising comebacks as new fashion. Similarly,
appointments in his Chapter 2 on Waging War (zuo zhan ). with new sound and colour technology, many old movies have been
given new leases of life.
In the same way, a company must be willing to learn from
external and independent parties like business consultants and Interestingly, many of the best museums in the world thrive on
trainers. Unlike customers, dealers and agents who typically exhibiting things and artifacts of the past. One such museum that
have vested interests in what they suggest, consultants and opened to enthusiastic response in Washington, D.C., in mid-2002
trainers do not carry such baggage. They do not have to please was on gadgets, instruments, and equipment used for espionage
the company, especially if their services are well demanded by purposes. The artifacts on exhibition were those that were used
other businesses. As such, their views may be more candid, in the past. Another fascinating museum opened to even greater
provocative and unbiased. response in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia around the same
period. It was a ghost museum! Most of the exhibits were based
Even if consultants and trainers do have some vested interests, on traditional Malay folklores, mysteries and myths about ghosts.
it is still worthwhile listening to them, as reflected by the following They were ideas of the past that entice countless curious audience
Chinese saying: of this modern world!

Perhaps, one of the most well-known examples about

Jian ting ze ming, pian xin ze an learning from the past has been the successes enjoyed by car
Listen to many points of views and you will be enlightened. Biased manufacturers who brought back the Beetle (Volkswagen) and the
beliefs based on a one-sided view will lead to disaster. Mini Cooper (Austin). Realising that there is a sizeable segment
of the motoring public who hold nostalgic memories of these two
When a good consultant is engaged, his views can be very cute cars, they were both rejuvenated and given a new lease of life.
valuable. This is because his exposure to many companies and Beetle enjoyed great success since its launch a few years ago.
industries can bring valuable insights that unlock the blind spots Mini Cooper was launched in 2001 and enjoyed great acceptance
of any company. Earlier, it was mentioned that a leading company by the market too.
should learn from indirect competitors and other businesses and
industries. This is where a good consultant can provide that useful In Singapore, some innovative food operators have also
bridge to shorten the learning curve and to provide different revived seemingly old businesses by learning from the past.
ideas and approaches. It is a contribution, if tapped, can be of Realising the attractiveness and nostalgic ambience of the old
immense value. coffee shop, commonly known as kopitiam (ka fei dian )
by Singaporeans, these operators literally set up eateries called
Learn From The Past Kopitiam. In addition, they also brought back food items that were
In this modern world of high technology, internet, biosciences and popular in the past. These include the half-boiled eggs, the kaya13
genetic engineering, it is very tempting to dismiss any lessons that toast and others. By learning from the past, these new generation
one can learn from the past. Yet, the following Chinese saying is food operators have managed to attract many local patrons.
worth noting: Interestingly, among them include many young professionals who
yearn for a taste and experience of the past. Many too, have
become converts and regular patrons of Kopitiam!
Qian shi bu wang, hou shi zhi shi
If one does not forget the events of the past, they can become With the increasing economic importance of China and
valuable lessons for future situations. its growing affluent class of consumers, many enterprising
businessmen had also brought back nostalgic products and
Indeed, interesting ideas can be culled from the past. Old services of the past to great success. Some examples include the
concepts can be resurrected and re-packaged differently to bring Chinese cheongsum14, the Mao suit15, nightclubs that play the
back the touch of nostalgia, and even to provide the needed edge songs of old Shanghai hotel lounges that offer classical Chinese
to distance onself from the competitors. The fashion and movie music, etc. All these products and services of the past have been

Kaya is a local jam-like bread spread made from eggs and other ingredients.
This is a traditional evening gown for ladies.
This is a traditional Chinese suit that was popularised by Mao Ze Tong, the late communist leader of China.
35 • S I N G A P O R E A C C O U N T A N T • J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 0 4

very well received. Their successes are likely to inspire more of such Those who see more will broaden their perspective. Those who
offers in the future. listen more will know and learn more.

Learn From Printed Media and Publications, Obviously, by travelling more, one will have greater chances
Including Web-based Sources to see more and listen more. In particular, learning will come from
The Chinese has a very interesting saying about learning interacting with people from different backgrounds and culture.
through reading: To survive and compete in this increasingly intertwined world of
business, there is an increasing need for a company to be exposed
to what is going on in the rest of the world. This is to allow it to
Kai juan you yi explore trade and business opportunities beyond its own national
Reading will always bring about benefits. borders, and to understand the needs and wants of its international
customers. This can only come about when a company is prepared
With advances in information technolgy, the search for to go abroad first to learn before venturing to market or sell its
information is becoming easier and easier. One only needs to enter products in overseas markets. Unfortunately, many companies
Yahoo and Google websites to experience the power of their search forget about the need to learn first. They hastily export their
engines. They literally lead us to the limitless world of knowledge products, and some even go into direct investment without doing
and information at the touch of the keyboard. Almost all printed their homework to understand the local operating environment, their
media can also be sourced electronically. Additional access to partners, the customers, the local government, etc. As a result, they
specific information can be obtained through e-mails and websites end up licking their wounds. One only needs to think of the many
that have all kinds of hyper-links to other sites. Most importantly, business failures in China in recent years to understand this point.
almost all of these information can be obtained for free or at very
low cost. One only needs to have the basic skills to surf and search Think and Act Outside the Box
the Internet for information. If a company is the industry leader, it must be prepared to lead.
If not, some other companies will take over the leadership soon.
Given the great potential that electronic data search can More importantly, it must focus on distancing itself from the rest of
provide, companies should seriously consider devoting dedicated the field. To achieve this, it must be prepared to think and to act
resources for such purposes. As mentioned, a lot of information, outside the box. This means learning from all kinds of sources and
ideas, etc. can be obtained at very low cost and with not much breaking conventions if necessary. Take the case of McDonald's,
effort in such a manner. This effectively justifies the case for the leader in the western fast food industry. It has a company that is
employing dedicated personnel to perform such functions. Not tasked with supplying it with all kinds of promotional and marketing
surprisingly, the more enlightened companies have appropriately ideas. This has resulted in many promotional gimmicks that did not
employed information technology officers who are also proficient even form part of its core business. For example, it has over the
in conducting research on the Internet. If budget permits, it is years, came up with the marketing of many collectible toys such
timely for a company to consider appointing intelligence and/or as Hello Kitty, Doberman Dog series, etc. that captured the hearts
information executives whose tasks are mainly to search, compile of its customers. Many consumers were even prepared to join long
and analyse information that are relevant for usage by the company. queues to buy the burgers so as to be eligible to buy the toys.

Participate in Exhibitions, Trade Shows, Conferences, Even with its core business of fast food, McDonald's has shown
Overseas Visits, etc. its willingness to break conventions by adjusting to the needs of the
As mentioned, there is no limit as to where one can learn. consumer and the changing market conditions. In Singapore, for
Participation in exhibitions, trade shows, going on overseas trips example, it provides chilli for its hamburgers, something unheard of
etc. are also means in which one can gather new ideas and in the U.S market. In Hong Kong, faced with slowing growth and
concepts. The furniture, jewelry, clothing, toys and household the severe economic recession in 2002, it offered McRice meals,
appliances industries are good examples. Typically, new designs complete with a mould of rice, chicken and a few pieces of brocolli
and concepts can be gained from taking part in trade fairs and at HK$22 (about US$2.80). The offer was very well received by its
shows. It is at such meetings that ideas, concepts and designs customers and caused severe threats to the local food operators.
are exchanged, borrowed and adapted for different usages and This was because as of mid-2002, McDonald's had 135 outlets
purposes. The following Chinese saying captures the spirit of this in various locations of Hong Kong. Its ability to provide consistent
kind of learning aptly: high quality meals at every restaurant was something that few local
Chinese fast food outlets and chains could match. KFC did likewise
in China with its Chinese-style dishes.
Cong jian zhe bo, duo wen zhe zhi
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What is perhaps interesting to point out is that McDonald's was even be lured into a state of complacency. Thus, it is crucial that
already in Hong Kong since 1975. Given that rice menu fits perfectly it adopts the right attitude to learn from all sources, including from
into the eating habits of Hong Kongers who are largely Chinese, it those considered as inferior to it. As mentioned earlier, when it has
took McDonald's, an industry leader, more than 27 years to decide the right attitude towards learning, there is no limit in acquiring ideas
on launching such a meal. Perhaps, it was the steep recession of and knowledge, as reflected by the following Chinese saying:
2001/02 and the need to arrest declining profits and market share
that prompted McDonald's to depart from its norm of selling mainly
hamburgers. Regardless of the reasons, it is significant to point out Dang ni (xue sheng) xiang xue xi de shi hou, lao shi zi ran hui
that it took McDonald's so long to think and act out of the box. chu xian
The following Chinese saying captures the essence of the belated When you (the student) are ready to learn, the teacher will appear.
response of McDonald's very well:
It cannot afford to relax and take things easy. In fact, it must
consistently and consciously strive to improve itself:
Zhi zhi nan, bu zai yu jian ren, shi zai yu zi jian
The challenge in knowing is not in assessing others, but in taking
stock of oneself. You ze gai zhi, wu ze jia mian
Change when there are mistakes; strengthen when there are none.
Let me illustrate with another example. Some years ago, I had
the privilege of conducting a seminar cum workshop for the Civil Indeed, business competition is like running a marathon
Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). Its Director-General then except that it has no finishing line. At the same time and at any
was very concerned that CAAS must find new ways to distance one point, new and fresh runners can join the field. To survive
itself from its competitors. In other words, CAAS was prepared to the competition, it must learn to widen its lead and distance itself
think and act outside the box, it had the right learning attitude. from the rest. In this way, it can continue to be innovative and
creative and to perform the functions of what a leader should be
As the leading airport in the world, it was difficult for CAAS to doing. After all, according to Sun Zi, it is always better when the
learn from other airports16. It was interested to learn from any other enemy has to prepare himself against you than the other way
means and avenues, and to get ideas and concepts to improve its round. Such an enviable position can only be available to those
operations. Among other things that were discussed at the seminar enlightened few who know not only to stay ahead of the field, but
cum workshop, I proposed that CAAS should learn from world to distance himself with such a comfortable gap that the others
class resorts and entertainment centres like Las Vegas, Disney will not only simply give up on trying to catch up, but would openly
World and Hollywood. To me, managing the leading airport in the acknowledge the leader as the “supreme emperor” or “supreme
world extends beyond that of efficiency alone. It should include commander” as mentioned at the beginning of this paper.
managing the experience of every passenger who uses it so that
he/she will be completely delighted. Take the case of Las Vegas. Wee Chow Hou (C H Wee) is a professor of Strategy, Management
It was built in a desert area. Yet, its hotels, entertainment facilities, & Organisation and Chairman of the Nanyang Executive
restaurants, shopping centres, etc. are simply fantastic and magical Programmes at the Nanyang Business School, Nanyang
to the extent that visitors do not get tired spending time there and Technological University (NTU) and a Honorary Professor of the
going back again. The same can be said about Disney World. Faculty of Management at Xiamen University (China) and the
There are many precious lessons that can be learned by studying Universiti Tunku Addul Rahman (UTAR) of Malaysia. Prior to joining
the magic behind the success of such mega attractions. In fact, NTU, he was Professor of Business Policy (since 1995), Dean of
some of their features could easily be incorporated in the design of the Faculty of Business Administration and Director of the Graduate
any airport terminal17. School of Business from February 1990 to January 1999 at the
National University of Singapore (NUS).
Conclusion: Willingness to Learn
For a company that is in a leadership position, the willingness to This article was first published in Nanyang Business Review by the
learn is extremely important to ensure that it remains at the forefront Nanyang Business School of Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
of the field. This is because being the leader, the general temptation
is to think that it cannot learn from its competitors anymore. It may Reproduced with permission.

In fact, CAAS does this very often by sending its top officials to study and learn from other airports around the world.
For the regular visitors to CAAS, I leave it to their judgement and observation as to whether it has incorporated some of the ideas/concepts in the
airport terminals. “What’s my Range,” a fun game with free shopping vouchers and prizes, for example, was introduced very successfully at the
airport in 2001/02.