I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we can look at our own weaknesses, both at a personal and and organizational level, and turn them into our advantages, into a source of strength.
At first, this may seem quite paradoxical, obviously weakness, if defined properly, are just that, weak. They are your soft spots, where if you get hit, it hurts.
However, if you look deep enough, you may just find that these so-called soft spots can give you an insight into why you are different, and then you can go about finding ways to exploit that difference to your advantage.
And so, looking at your own constraints and finding creative ways to exploit them to your own advantage has been a favorite tactic of generals since recorded history. I’ve written about how armies have quite literally burnt their boats to give themselves no option of retreat, but today I want to look at another example.
The Mongols were particularly effective at this idea of exploiting their weakness to their own advantages, mostly by exploiting the fact that they were essentially invincible in an open battlefield against any enemy because of their large number of fast-moving horse archers that would decimate the enemy before they had the chance to close ranks. The problem, however, is that their enemies knew this as well, and so stayed nicely put in fortifications that didn’t suit the Mongol fighting style.
So the Mongols would use retreat and fake a rout and then the enemy would chase them out to the open battlefield where then the Mongols would turn back and destroy them.
So the Mongols always wanted to fight the enemy on their own terms, when it best suited them.
What is interesting in this analogy is how the Mongols later also became masters at siege warfare and essentially become an unstoppable force for a long time.