Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Advantages of Closing a Few Doors - New York Times

Burn Your Boats - No Way But Forward.

It's probably ten years since I heard this story, at a conference in Hong Kong. Here is an article on a book that brings this old tale into a contemporary context.

The Advantages of Closing a Few Doors - New York Times: "Xiang Yu was a Chinese general in the third century B.C. who took his troops across the Yangtze River into enemy territory and performed an experiment in decision making. He crushed his troops’ cooking pots and burned their ships.

He explained this was to focus them on moving forward — a motivational speech that was not appreciated by many of the soldiers watching their retreat option go up in flames. But General Xiang Yu would be vindicated, both on the battlefield and in the annals of social science research."