In this article, I am trying to shed some light on a very dark practice of attacks on decision making process, which, unfortunately, is very ubiquitous.
I do believe that awareness is key to improvement, that is why I write about the practice itself and possible defenses.
Since this post touches deeply challenges that I experience, I am very curious to learn how you protect your decision making processes.
You can compete with any company through your products and your marketing. This is the efficiency path.
You can compete with any company by being positioned better to capture future opportunities. This is the strategic path.
And you can compete with any company or individual by directly attacking their decision process. This is the dark path.
The attack on a decision process can take different forms:
In the military, you can leave a place weakly protected to bait your enemy into grabbing it and overstretch its supply lines, which reduce your opponent ability to react somewhere else.
In business, you may promise a competing startup a partnership deal if only they implement a few features. Of course, nobody needs those features; you are just buying time.
In business, if you want to enter your supplier market, you can ask the supplier for an unreasonable request, such as 30 years of security maintenance for a phone. It will take them 3-6 months to evaluate your demands.
In politics, if you need a strong moral imperative to do what you want, you can push someone's buttons and use the reaction to justify your actions.
All those attacks are similar, and they always involve two basic steps: triggering and capturing.
Triggering causes the target to put itself in a disadvantageous position to overwhelm their decision-making process and stress any constraints they may have had.
Capturing is a low-profile action that gives the attacker what they really wanted from the beginning.
Defence is not easy, but possible. Here are the four pillars of it, and, as you can expect, three of them are about building understanding:
You need to recognise two types of decisions - what game do you want to play and what should be your moves in that game. It is one thing to provide security maintenance for 30 years, and it is another thing to decide whether you even want to talk about it.
Win-win scenarios assume both sides are playing on their strengths, and both sides benefit from cooperation. Any action which requires you not to play where you are strong is a massive red flag. Also, an effort that is not beneficial for the other party is another gigantic red flag.
Playing on your strong points requires you to know what they are and what are your weak points. You need to build strong self-awareness and understand your limitations. At the same time, knowing you need to learn what is and is not beneficial for the other party.
Resisting the trigger is often a character exercise. You get attacked, you feel the urge to respond, yet any response other than accepting (often exaggerated) losses will worsen your situation. You need to build a decision discipline strong enough to give you the privilege of choosing the game you want to play.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” -Sun Tzu, Art of War