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Journal cover: Chinese Management Studies

Chinese Management Studies

ISSN: 1750-614X

Online from: 2007

Subject Area: Regional Management Studies

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Cognitive strategy from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Document Information:
Title:Cognitive strategy from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Author(s):Check Teck Foo, (Systems and Engineering Management, School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Citation:Check Teck Foo, (2008) "Cognitive strategy from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms", Chinese Management Studies, Vol. 2 Iss: 3, pp.171 - 182
Keywords:China, Cognition, Literature, Management strategy, National cultures, Psychology
Article type:General review
DOI:10.1108/17506140810895870 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Purpose – The Romance of the Three Kingdoms (RTK) is probably the most popular classical novel in Chinese literature. Of more than 1,000 characters in this extensive, three-volume novel, Kong Ming in RTK is widely seen by the Chinese as the most remarkable strategist. This paper attempts to develop a cognitive schema of Kong Ming on strategy.

Design/methodology/approach – First, the paper reviews broadly the traditionally, four most popular novels within the Chinese classical literature: The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, Journey to the West and A Dream of the Red Mansions. After emphasizing the role of the RTK in influencing Chinese strategic thinking, the paper utilizes the methods of textual analyses in research. Focusing on a specific episode of global strategy making and taking (Chapter 38), the methodology is explained.

Findings – From textual analysis, the paper presents as its finding a schematically linear, cognitive structure of the strategy process. It also presents the central role of the “Counselor of Strategy” in Chinese strategy making process. From this research, a Kong Ming-grounded, cognitive model of strategy process is developed. If the RTK (more than say, any MBA program) continues to influence Chinese strategy processes, then fast strategic decision making (as exemplified in our analyses) may be one of the pivotal reasons for the equally fast rise of the Chinese economy in our global economic landscape.

Originality/value – Kong Ming (or Zhuge Liang) had been hailed by the Chinese with such lofty epithets such as the “Divine Strategist”. His exploits during the declining Han dynasty and emergence of the Three Kingdoms of Wei, Shu and Wu (220-280 CE) are still cited by the Chinese people in their daily conversations on strategy. In this paper, we draw lessons for CEOs through a Kong Ming-grounded model for strategy.

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