Meet Zheng and Qi, again

[using the updated English transliterations for cheng and ch'i]

A vivid example in today’s Wall St. J. illustrating how Toyota let its Lexus brand lose the magic it has had for 20 years.  Here’s the punch line:

Mr. Dailey found the interior of the BMW 328xi more to his liking, and bought one. “In the most basic of 3 Series you still feel a little pampered,” Mr. Dailey said. “In the Lexus, it was a different story” [referring to the "awful plethora of plastic trim" inside a comparably priced Lexus.]

The idea of zheng / qi is that you engage with the expected, zheng, while closing the sale with the unexpected qi.  This is the same pattern described in Chapter 5 of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, but applied in a way appropriate to business.

The zheng / qi pattern is an aspect of the ancient strategic principle of shih, and for a good introduction, you might consult David Lai’s short monograph, “Learning From The Stones: A Go Approach To Mastering China’s Strategic Concept, Shi,” available from the Army’s Strategic Studies Institute.

I explore some of the implications for business in chapter VI of Certain to Win.