How is PAS different…

...from other approaches to turning an opponent’s strength against himself?

Organizations are well known for developing certain "strengths". Management literature refers to this as "core competency". Organizations then develop significant activity chains and structures around those "core competencies". Asymmetrical strategic thinking not only neutralizes an opponent’s strength but turns it against him. Once asymmetric strategy finds a way to turn a competency against a rival, the rival may find himself at a severe competitive disadvantage. And what else can an organization throw into a competitive battle but its strengths?

Usually, approaches for reaching this goal -- "guerilla strategy" in military conflicts or so called "judo strategy" in business and marketing context -- are asymmetrical too. However, these methods are reactive in nature. They operate only after an opponent has initiated his action. PAS is the only asymmetric approach that is truly proactive and independent of an opponent’s will to do battle.

…from exploiting an opponent’s weaknesses?

Exploiting an opponent’s weakness is typical for what the military calls a "maneuver strategy" or "Blitz", and is known in the business world as "hypercompetitive strategy" or "blindspots maneuvering". This approach neutralizes an opponent’s strength by concentrating efforts against his weaknesses and blind spots, when and where the rival does not expect it. Maneuver strategy frequently involves "seeing reality better". It is not truly asymmetrical strategic thinking, since it does not make use of the opponent’s strength, only of his errors. But it is a highly proactive school of thought.

Still, it is less proactive than Proactive Asymmetric Strategy. While maneuver strategy (military), or blindspots maneuvering (business), has to discover some error on the opponent’s part in order to create disruption, Proactive Asymmetric Strategy looks for things an opponent does well, not for follies. While you might not always be able to detect an exploitable weakness, there is always something an opponent does well enough for it to be used against him!

…from creative thinking and reframing?

Similar to the PAS methodology, creativity workshops and reframing projects give you a chance to reinvent the way you think. However, creativity and mental reframing are usually seen as internally focused processes. It’s you, sitting with your colleagues, and together you probe what you could do differently or what could be wrong with your way of thinking. Some consultants do an amazing job in facilitating this process.

But there is a basic problem: Your insights amaze you, but do they amaze your competitors? Are they feasible? It is a healthy thing to surprise yourself from time to time, but eventually you will have to surprise someone else too. Otherwise, your creativity or reframing will only be an intellectual exercise. As impressive as it may be, it might be useless. You will have to check the new ideas one by one, to see if they are practical and if they are capable of inflicting strategic surprise upon your rivals.

PAS reverses this order. It first explores what would inflict strategic surprise on competitors. PAS methodology is externally focused and builds a new mental model based on the disruption of a rival’s mental model. It promises the most extreme reframing process for your thinking in relation to your competitive context. You will come up with one new idea (or a small number of ideas) that by definition will have a significant competitive impact and achieve strategic surprise, instead of developing a multitude of ideas and testing them one by one only to find out that most of them are useless, perhaps never obtaining the ultimate insight for your strategic situation.

…from creating new competitive space?

In recent years the idea of escaping competition by creating new and uncontested competitive space has gained popularity. The idea is to find new ways to do business or develop a wonder weapon, and make your competition irrelevant. This approach tells us to escape to new fields, where everything will be better.

The problem is that once you move to new competitive space, your rivals will follow. They might do so rather quickly. While you had to undergo a difficult reframing process to explore new ways of doing things, they can learn from you.

Proactive Asymmetric Strategy develops a new competitive space as well. But it does so by using the existing competitive dynamics, instead of trying to escape to a better world. A new competitive space is created in the midst of existing and unfavorable competitive space. Because Proactive Asymmetric Strategy disrupts rivals, they cannot follow, and every attempt on their part to do so, will assist you.

…from what terrorists call asymmetric warfare?

The predominance of terrorists in public perception as the ultimate asymmetric strategists is due to the high profile of the atrocities they commit, not to any strategic ingenuity on their part. Their radicalism, coupled with their amorphious organization generates dynamics that result in asymmetric strategy, at least as long as their victims insist on conventional strategic thinking. When it comes to conscious asymmetrical strategic thinking, terrorists are not smarter than anyone else. Asymmetric strategy in itself is neither good nor bad, nor does it belong solely to terrorists.

Lord Thomas Dewar once remarked that “minds are like parachutes. They work best when open”. Thus, you should not expect extremists who view the world through the lenses of a rigid ideology to be the best in the class when it comes to asymmetrical strategic thinking. You can do much better.

"Thought is established by counsel; and with cunning make war." Proverbs XX, 18