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"Book of Five Rings" for Executives: Musashi's Classic Book of Competitive Tactics [Paperback]

Donald G. Krause
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

22 July 1999
"The Book of Five Rings", by Japanese samurai swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, is the famous classic of competitive tactics and fluid strategy. This book has been written for the modern manager who is looking for a competitive edge in fast-moving situations, particularly in innovation, marketing and negotiations.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing; New edition edition (22 July 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857881338
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857881332
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 13.4 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,786,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The Book of Five Rings for Executives, by international management consultant Donald G. Krause, is his third volume on classic battle philosophies that can help today's businesspeople compete more effectively. Based on an epic five-part letter to students written in 1643 by legendary samurai swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, its long-revered instructions in the martial arts have been enthusiastically transplanted in recent years from the Eastern battlefield to the Western boardroom. Musashi's stirring but difficult original treatise on "achieving competitive dominance" is given a more digestible update here by Krause, who shrewdly reorients its fundamental "five rings" into a set of seven practical principles centred on the requisite modern traits of preparation, discipline, skill and fluidity. Along the way, he demonstrates how historical leaders such as George Washington and Lawrence of Arabia, in addition to contemporaries like Bill Gates and Howard Schultz, have embraced Musashi's ideas. The combination ultimately creates, as Krause explains: "A competitive sword which is capable of winning in all phases of business." --Howard Rothman,

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Secrets of "Master Competitors" 31 Jan 2007
By Robert Morris TOP 100 REVIEWER
I recently re-read this book and Ways of Warrior Kings, Codes of Kings and will now share my current reactions to Miyamoto Musashi's classic analysis of what Donald G. Krause characterizes as the "Seven Principles of Competitive Success." Ordered Flexibility and Execution are the first two. According to Musashi, "Water is both ordered and flexible at the same time. It maintains its own identify, but conforms as necessary to the circumstances around it." Effective and appropriate execution produces desired results. Those who do so are called "executives." Here are the other five principles:

Resources (i.e. assets and skills)

Environment (i.e. physical surroundings, terrain, and weather)

Attitude (i.e. alert as well as confident)

Concentration (i.e. applying strength against weakness, committing resources to opportunity)

Timing (i.e. effective execution at the appropriate moment)

The acronym REACT will help some to remember them. Obviously, executives in all organizations must make hundreds of decisions each day, some of which could well determine the success or failure of a given initiative. To Krause's great credit, he never forces correlations between the battlefield and the business world even as he correctly suggests that much of what a 17th century samurai swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi, found true of combat is also true of commerce.

Hence the importance of sustaining "ordered flexibility" while taking effective and appropriate execution to produce desire results. In this context, I am reminded of what Peter Drucker said in an article published in 1963 by the Harvard Business Review: "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting as a book about and by a samurai 2 Jun 2005
I enjoyed this book, but more so from the perspective of someone interested in Musashi than as a business reader.
If you are looking to enhance your carrer with some killer corporate moves, this is not likely to please, but if you enjoy exploring the samurai mindset (more or less) first hand, then it is well worth a look.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strike Against Weakness at the Moment of Maximum Advantage 22 Oct 2000
By Donald Mitchell - Published on
This book is a valuable development of the metaphor of a samurai swordfight for how to gain competitive tactical advantage in business. The author has taken Miyamoto Musashi's 1643 classic and put it into the context of business issues. The book contains Musashi's principles updated and customized for the current business world in seven principles, five aspects (or rings), examples from Japanese companies' use of these ideas, and cases (Starbucks, Robert E. Lee, Warren Buffett, George Washington crossing the Delaware, Andy Grove, Bill Gates, Lawrence of Arabia, and Donald Trump). As a result, the lessons are quite accessible and clear.
The seven principles are: Ordered Flexibility ("the nature of water"), Execution ("appropriate action at the right time"), Resources ("information is the fabric of tactics"), Environment ("approach derives from circumstances"), Attitude ("firm, yet flexible . . . centering on a determining reality"), Concentration ("concentrating strength against weakness or resources against opportunity"), and Timing ("when the scale is tipped in favor of the tactics you have chosen").
The Japanese business application of this approach is to: 1) copy technology and train people. (2) recombine elements and widen market acceptance. (3) increase quality/price ratio and dominate markets.
The five aspects are: (1) Foundation (2) Form (3) Fire (4) Fabric and (5) Focus.
Let me elaborate on the Foundation concept to give you a sense of what is in these sections. The rules of Foundation are: (1) Do what is right, what is correct. (2) Sense the rhythm and timing in everyday situations. (3) Broaden your knowledge of management. (4) Study other arts and professions. (5) Distinguish between profitable and unprofitable activities. (6) See reality under all circumstances. (7) Look for what is not obvious. (8) Concentrate on critical details. (9) Eliminate useless activity. (This last sound's like Peter Drucker's famous exhortation to "slough off yesterday.")
This book is the third volume in a series that Mr. Krause has created about how business people can compete more effectively that draw on classic books on this subject.
Musashi's work is much better known in Japan than in the United States. He was a legendary samurai swordsman who from ages 13 to 29 defeated 60 men in duels. Death or severe injury was always at risk. Then he retired to a cave and lived as a pauper writing about the lessons of his battles for the next 30 years. This book is based on those writings which were a five part letter to his followers and students. The essence of that advice is to "look beneath the surface" of the events around you to distill their meaning.
Those who wish to improve their sword fighting and dueling skills should read the original. Those who enjoy this book may wish to read the original as well. You will be rewarded by obtaining a deeper sense of the Zen philosophy behind these observations.
All business people will benefit from this book. Highly recommended!
Although this book focuses on tactics, you would do well to combine it with Sun Tzu's thinking about how to use strategy to create situations where no battle is needed. Then you need only practice your tactics to keep sharp, not to secure your advantage. For example, if your advantages in quality, effectiveness, honor, and prestige are so great that others know they cannot compete and would be harmed or simply waste time and effort by doing so, they will seek you out as a partner instead. Then, much more can be accomplished for all!
Be sharp!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer - Published on
I began reading BOOK OF FIVE RINGS as a martial arts student almost 20 years ago and continue to refer to it today as the bible of competitive strategy, using it everyday in business, martial arts, and other aspects of life. No serious businessperson's repertoire is complete without this very important book.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Reading, But Beware Of Re-Interpretations 5 Aug 2000
By "killerclown" - Published on
This new interpretation of Musashi's classic bible of strategy and tactics explains the essence of his philosophy in clear modern terms. The central concept here is "Ordered Flexibility". If you come from a business background you no longer have to read The Book of Five Rings as metaphor (the original was written in the language of sword-play, the Zen art of killing your opponent swiftly and efficiently). Of course, the principles were always meant to be applicable to all areas of life, and they still are even though they were develloped over 350 years ago.
Despite the fact that the quality of the information is very good, I've only given the book 4 stars because it is my opinion that the Fifth Ring was not properly develloped. This refers to the Void, the state of No-Mind. Remember, Musashi was a Samurai master of Zen swordsmanship, and no Book of Five Rings is complete without properly dealing with the concepts of Zen. I suppose Krause had a certain demographic in mind when he put this book together. All in all, a recommended addition to any financial player's library.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Book is Common Sense / Do Not Read 23 Sep 2003
By Grant - Published on
This book is very poorly translated to English. It reads like instructions on a VCR manual. If it were not required reading, I would never have read it. The book could be summarized in about 5 pages, but it drags on using the same examples in every chapter. This book does not relate to business. It has no direct reference to business and should not be taken out of context. If you need a business book, then read a recent book. If you want to read this book, I can summarize: Offense, defense, strategy, weaknesses, strengths. If you know what these are then you have enough information and do not need to read the book. It would have been much better if it read like a story instead of bullet points. The author could have put you in the mindset of an Asian battle field, but these details were left out. Why someone would put a recommendation on this book is confusing to me. It is very boring and hard to read. I am just speaking plainly and honestly. It is not for business and should not be treated this way. The translation to english is frustrating. The one piece to take away from the book is about leading troops. When a leader's troops are undiscipline, the officers are weak. This is common sense.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars at 3$, it was not a bargain 22 Dec 2000
By BErdogan - Published on
I bought this book from a store sale at 3$, and after reading this book, realized that it was not a bargain. This is one of the worst management books I have read so far. What the author did is take a few very simple and mostly useless ideas (do what is appropriate? Is this an idea?) and wrapped them in Musashi's 5 rings, giving them some Far East flavor and mysticism. If you are able to see through this and if you can summarize what the book is saying, it has a very simple message, and not a new one.
The message is not new, nor intuitively appealing. However, it is also a painful effort to get to the message, because the book is lacking organization and needs editing. Supposedly organized around 5 rings, each section contains several subheadings that have no obvious relationship to the section they belong. Especially in the first 2 parts several paragraphs lack focus, and contain sentences that are not supporting each other, nor binded to each other in a meaningful way.
Several examples are repeated all through the book, suggesting that the author might be having a tough time filling out 159 pages without repeating himself. I was disturbed when the same tiger example, or the same water example kept repeating all through the book, each time appearing as the first time and explained in detail.
The author fails to separate Musashi's writings from his own prescriptions, which was very disturbing to me. Some direct quotes contained sentences like: Musashi says "the competitive executive gathers together small pieces of information...." So should we believe that Musashi, who was a Samurai warrior, wrote up thinking about executives, or organizations?
Most of the prescriptions of the author are vague and cannot help anyone except if you are trying to make a post-hoc explanation for someone's success. I agree that timing is very important, but you cannot prescribe someone to exert appropriate amount of effort, or be at the right place at the right time. These are sufficiently vague prescriptions that no one can refute, but also mostly meaningless.
The author fails to specify the boundary conditions under which these prescriptions will hold. The author argues that business is a battle, and in order to win, you need to do these. However, not all business life is war, nor should be treated as such. If you are having an interpersonal conflict with someone you will have to continue to work after the conflict, try these techniques and guarantee that you will have no future together. Musashi was a samurai, and his teachings I think are related to conditions where you are having a battle to death. Under these situations, you need to do whatever it takes to win, including Musashi's ideas such as stabbing one in the eye. You cannot afford to apply these techniques in your work group, nor in most negotiation situations. I think in this respect the book is dangerous, because a novice who decides to take these ideas to heart may start to frame business life as war and win-lose situations, which is simply dangerous and wrong. If you treat the other party as enemy, he/she becomes your enemy, and this would be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am not saying there are no wars in business, but I definitely argue that not all business life is war. The author should have clarified under which conditions these principles would apply.
Finally, I think the battlefield examples at the end are simply too convenient. The author tries to examine the success of Bill Gates, Andy Grove, Donald Trump among others with Musashi's teachings. I believe these successes can be examples in any organizational behavior or strategy textbook, and almost in any chapter. The real success of these tactics would be shown if these successful people consciously applied these so called tactics in their business life. As it is, they don't have much meaning.
With these points, this was a book that seriously outraged me from start to finish.
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