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Wisdom from the East — and from South Florida.
Two South Florida writers share their ideas on gaining a competitive edge and finding a personal business niche.


Originally published on Monday, April 19, 2004 in The Miami Herald.

Here are two recent books by South Florida-based authors seeking to derive wisdom from the experience of others.

The Art of the Advantage: 36 Strategies to Seize the Competitive Edge. Kaihan Krippendorff. Texere. 288 pages

Buy it now!!

Kaihan Krippendorff is a Miami-based executive and consultant. Despite a title that might suggest a memoir by Donald Trump, his new book is an interesting and well-constructed effort to make an aspect of traditional Asian philosophical thinking comprehensible and actionable to Western business minds.

As a student at Columbia Business School, Krippendorff was encouraged by a
professor to consider turning his hobby of compiling business cases into a book. The 36 Stratagems, a 2,500-year-old text of similar pedigree as Sun Tzu's celebrated Art of War, provided the perfect context. Each stratagem is used to portray at least one legendary story, as well as a contemporary business tale involving companies like Sony, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Coca Cola and others.

Here are some of the stratagems (and chapter titles): To catch something, first let it go; Exchange a brick for a jade; Invite your enemy onto the roof, then remove the ladder; Lure the tiger down from the mountain; Befriend the distant enemy to attack one nearby; Kill with a borrowed knife; Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao; The stratagem of sowing discord; Beat the grass to startle the snake; Loot a burning house; Feign madness but keep your balance; Clamor in the east: attack to the west; Fool the emperor and cross in sea; Create something out of nothing; Hide a dagger behind a smile; and so forth.

Krippendorff's book is an interesting one. Whether readers will be adept enough to figure out which stratagem would best be employed in any given situation is an open question. To that end, the author includes a useful appendix that suggests ways to employ the stratagems as brainstorming tools.

Regardless, thinking about business challenges and situations in new ways can't hurt and might actually help a great deal.

Finding Your Niche Can Be a Real Bitch But It Doesn't Have to Be. Kathy Dolbow Doran. WORDrunner, Inc. 71 pages.


Kathy Doran is an active participant of the Business Monday Book Club and often poses questions that challenge assertions by authors (and a reviewer) and demonstrate her insatiable and relentless curiosity. This acquisitiveness for information propelled her through the twists and turns of her professional life.

Now she's directed this energy and interest toward learning how others discovered their own path or ''niche'' in life. For some, self-recognition came after much trial and error; others seemed to lurch into a vocation or calling that magically matched their skills and interests. To find out more, Doran interviewed eleven people, among them several South Floridians, including physician, author, painter and broadcaster Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, and John Dufresne, a writer and teacher.

Author Doran quizzed each subject on how they found their niche. It's a potentially interesting procedure, but the brief interviews offer little depth and scarce analysis. There's also a self-help workbook section offering earnest exercises and recommended readings, supplanted by quotes and take-aways from the interviews, along with Doran's terse interpretations.

It's a noble effort but at 71 pages, a bit skimpy. Perhaps if this self-published project takes off, she will be sufficiently motivated to revisit it and add the necessary critical mass.

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