Dear CMO:
Basaidai begins with ten blocks, if I recall correctly. An old friend, who was a fifth degree black belt, once wisely told me that any fight that begins with ten blocks isn’t going very well. I’d love to think that I actually broke ten arms as I began basaidai, but that’s probably wishful thinking.
Kata, if you’ve never had a rib broken in the dojo, is the practice of the forms of martial arts. Shadow boxing a pre-arranged fight. Kata teach the technique that can be applied to full measure once you’re in kumite, or actual sparring. Or, in the words of Robert Smith, they teach you to “run with confidence.”
Not much replaces experience. You need to fight your own fights. But the deeper lesson here is that while experience is king, kata is vastly more important than hearing about another guy’s kumite.
Knowing how to fight is a precursor to greater skill. We can all brawl. Our markets are full of brawlers. “What’s it going to take to get your business?” your sales guy says. This technique may have served him well over his career, but it hasn’t served the needs of his company. It guarantees the worst of all possible victories, each and every time. His definition of winning is falling helplessly on the mat and declaring victory based on his apparent survival. This may be victory to some, of course.
Here’s the marketing insight, as far as I can tell: thinking tools always beat advice. Reading how Mr. Big took Megacorp from a hundred billion to four gadzillion in revenue is interesting, and will no doubt be filled to the margins with all the good things he can remember; it will also undoubtedly not contain all the things that he didn’t control but that played significant roles in his success. We tend to remember the good things about ourselves and all the bad things about everybody else.
Thinking tools teach us how to study our problems and put them in business contexts where many others have succeeded. Consider the average cookbook as an example: does it give you endless recipes or does it teach you how to cook – batuto, sofrito, insapopire – so that you don’t need the recipes in front of you? The former is “advice,” the latter, “tools.”

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Key Takeaways:

> Studying – and teaching – “thinking tools” will always produce better results than listening to or giving “advice.” Teaching a man how to fish is better than telling him about the time you caught that big one.

> We can make a habit of looking for patterns so we can continuously create our own thinking tools.

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Honestly, I don’t care what happened that one time you did that one thing and how the inexorable wheel of fate happened to arrive at that one spot. It won’t happen that way when I’m in the ring, in all probability. What I need are the tools to fight.
We don’t want to have to start our next fight with ten straight blocks.
But if we have to, we can.