Home > business, marketing > You Can Learn a Lot from Terrorists

You Can Learn a Lot from Terrorists

Setting patterns is dangerous

Setting patterns is dangerous

Within twelve hours of being on Londonderry, I was in one of the British Military bases in the city with my platoon. It was early 1991 and I had flown out to take over from a fellow officer who was needed for preparations the Army was making to commence the first Gulf War. I had been through training for an earlier tour to South Armagh but this tour was on the streets and not in the fields.

We sprinted through the gates of the base onto the streets and within a minute a bomb went off some 500 metres away. Our drills kicked in and we made our way towards the area to cordon it off. It turned out that it was a small bomb but we still had to do the drills and provide a safety zone to keep people out so the bomb disposal team could come in and make the location safe and clear any other potential bombs.

The next stage is the part of the ninety-nine percent of boredom that all troops experienced in Northern Ireland when you are out on the streets for twelve hours or more while the bomb disposal team do their jobs. Trying to keep alert is tough, so you move your teams around in the area to keep them sharp. You make sure that they are supplied with hot food and tea to keep them happy. And all the time you are there, you are not somewhere else. And that’s what the terrorists know.

The next thing we saw, some eight hours after the bomb, were the phosphorescent tracers of rounds streaming through the air towards one of the watchtowers in another base in the city. The IRA were using an M60 machine gun and they had been very clever. They sucked us into setting up a cordon around the bomb while they set up their real target.

And that’s why they say respect your enemy because they are not stupid. This is why you are trained not to set patterns in the Army so that you minimise the chance of walking into their traps. And this is a lesson for anyone in business too.

Last week I was with two people who run their own business making weights for balloons. Their manufacturing business is an industry where there is little marketing carried out by their competitors. Most web sites are dull and most of their business is carried out through orders sent by fax and there are no distinct brands. 

But the business owners I met want to grow their business and they wanted to start doing it by developing their brand and using the Internet to reach new customers and sell more to their existing customers. Their competitors are setting patterns and doing business in the way that they have always done business. My clients have recognised that they need to use their competitors complacency to their advantage and out-market them. 

So, respect your enemy or your competitors. Get to know the patterns they are setting and disrupt them. And be prepared to set off on a path of continuous change and innovation to stay ahead and keep them on their toes.

  1. 30/03/2009 at 10:39 pm

    This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

  2. 31/03/2009 at 9:00 am

    I watched Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket last night. What a film! What a powerful ending when they found their sniper was a teenage girl… I so agree with you that there are lessons for business here – particularly in this internet age where your competitor could be a teenage girl ….

    • 31/03/2009 at 9:37 am

      Yes, it is a good film! You never know where your next competitor will come from and what your existing competitors will do.

  3. 04/04/2009 at 2:29 am

    Very nice blog, WH. Happy to tweet the link as you will have seen. Thanks.

    Will Your Life’s Work “Live, Forever”?

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