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25 Feb 2014

How our Finance Minister Kill with a Borrowed Knife

Sun Tzu Art of War uses tactics to achieve maximum results with minimum resources.  One of the most used stratagem is "Kill with a Borrowed Knife" or 借刀杀人。Unknown to many people and unreported by the media, our Finance Minister Mr Tharman used this tactic in pushing the PIC (Productivity and Innovation Credit).

You see, Mr Tharman had a tall and challenging task.  How can Singapore 250,000 companies, of which over 95% are small and medium enterprises, reduce the reliance on cheap foreign labour and use higher skilled local staff and automation to increase productivity?  So he came up with the PIC scheme in 2010.

In 2012, Mr Tharman enhanced this scheme and increased the cash subsidy from 30% to 60%, payable quarterly instead of yearly.  But he has another problem: how can this scheme be pushed out quickly to the most number of SMEs without the government hiring a big public relations team?  The answer lies in making use of vendors.

You see, vendors doing training, IT Solutions, IT Hardware, Software and Automation Equipment can see huge payouts to their business if their clients invest in such PIC claimable items.  So these vendors (including we as training providers) are actually the knifes used by the Finance Minister.

Not only that, such vendors are also using the PIC scheme as a knife to 'kill' or close the sale.  And the companies that invest in PIC claimable expenditure are also using the PIC as a knife to achieve their goals: train their people, upgrade the IT and automate their businesses.

In short, everyone, from the Government to the Vendor and the claimant companies are all using the PIC as a knife to kill or achieve their goals. No wonder they say that such a tactic is the most used among the 36 Stratagems.  For when you try to kill someone with your own knife, people will be defensive. But when you borrow a knife from their friend, they will let their guard down as they doubt their friend will harm them.  So the key is to always borrow a tactic, a strategy, a tool, money or any resource that people perceive to be friendly, and then use this borrowed 'knife' to 'kill' or achieve your purpose.  This is what Facebook was doing: it used US$16 billion Facebook shares to buy over Whatsapp.  In short, kill with a borrowed knife is very effective.

By Andy Ng, whose courses on Sun Tzu Art of War are now done in 3 different areas: Sales, Leadership and People Management.  For details, click here.

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