Sun Tzu Art of War – Communication Tools

According to the Book on Military Administration, “In battles, as verbal communication cannot be heard clearly, cymbals and drums are used as commands” As visual communication and eye contact are hampered, banners and flags are used as signals. Now the purpose of using cymbals, drums, flags and banners is to draw attention of the troops and focus them for combat under the direction of the commander. Once the troops are united as one body, the courageous ones will not improvement forward by themselves and the cowardly ones will not retreat by themselves. This is the art of directing larges forces in battles. – Chapter Seven, Sun Tzu Art of War

For battles at night, use more torches and drums. For battles in the day, use more banners and flags. These different method of communication can intended to influence the judgment of the enemy. – Chapter Seven, Sun Tzu Art of War

As mentioned above, during day operations more banners and flags should be used for communication and during night operations, drums and torches should be used instead. From here we can see how observant Sun Tzu is. He already noted down what kind of communication we should use during each battle, but of course the list of tools mentioned is not exhaustive, communication channels should depend on the ground in addition. For example, if you are in a flat ground, a larger banner (daytime) or fireworks (night) should be used for communication because they can convey accurate messages, if you have explained precisely what each signals meant. But observe here is that your signals, not tools, should be like your strategy, it should change with every battle. If you have a fixed form of communication signals, sooner or later, your enemy will be able to decipher them and that is would likely be the consequence of your defeat. This explains why Sun Tzu said the method of communication can be used to influence the enemy.

Business Application

Communication is very important in business. Communication breakdown can be detrimental to a business, like losing a big client or slow reaction to a competitor’s move. With a strong understanding of each communication tools weakness and strength would you then be able to use it to your advantage. Good communication system can grant a company great flexibility, shorter reaction time and faster response. It is similar to an irrigation system. With good proper control system of the flow, accurate amount of water, water flowing to the right place, the fields will prosper because of it. These are capabilities that are extremely valuable in this dynamic business ecosystem. Some forms of communication channels are e-mail, letters, internet messenger, telephone, internet telephony or video conferencing and confront to confront. I shall talk about their usage within the company. Please take observe that having the proper communication tools is only one aspect of a good communication system though.


E-mail could be formal or informal, nowadays because of the corporate frauds that happened in US, companies are now required to keep a copy of all the e-mails that are sent out to within and outside the company. E-mails does not request fast response from the recipients. It can be obtain if the security system’s guideline and usage is strictly to follow. E-mail is a cheap way of sending information and documents within the company and these information can be stored electronically consequently cost savings arise from these characteristic. But one downfall of communication is emotions are not properly conveyed out. E-mails would be appropriate for clear cut instructions or information that does not require immediate attention and preferably within a department. Cheap because can move with least costs throughout company already if overseas. It is inclined to technology risks.


What is described here are paper letters sent from one department to another. It is only needed when you want to formalize a request or a work order. But this kind of communication is slowly being taken over by e-mail. Letters are more concrete than e-mail because electronic files are usually placed under suspicion of editing or changing. Letter has the same characteristics as that of the e-mail but since it is tangible, it is not like e-mail where you can deny you have received it.. Security wise, it could be better or worse than e-mail depending on situations. It could be costly if you need to send it overseas. It is more reliable than electronic mode of communication.

Internet Messenger (moment Messaging)

With the popular use of internet, internet messenger like ICQ, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger are being popularized, it allows fast relay of information and nowadays these messengers have the capabilities to help you know whether the person on the other end is around or not. But again, it lacks the move of emotions. The voice and tone of your message cannot be sent out by the messenger, already with emoticons, misunderstanding can nevertheless occur. What you sent out could be in a tone of offering help like “What do you want me to do?” But others after reading the message may interpret, you are angry with him for doing something. But Internet messenger has its pros in addition, it could be used as a channel for informal discussion within the company because some of these messengers can allow multiple users in a single chat windows. And it is cheap since most of them are free and information can be transferred overseas cheaply. It is inclined to technology risks.


Compare to the other modes that are mentioned, it is a comparatively better channel of communication. Because your tonality, voice qualities are also transmitted reducing the chance of your message being misunderstood. But it lacks another communication characteristic that is important and that is body language. It definitely solicits fast response because you can only communicate when the receiver is on the other side at the same time. But it can be very expensive if you need to communicate overseas. And reliability should be better than any electronic channel since this industry has been around for a very long time.

Internet Telephony & Video Conferencing

Internet telephony is slowly becoming very popular because SMEs and MNCs can make overseas call cheaply. This also includes video conferencing, which is made more popular with the prevalence of broadband. It has all the characteristics of telephone, with video conferencing being better because body language, to some extent, can be conveyed in addition. But reliability could be a problem depending on the infrastructure and service provider obtainable on both sides. Setting it up is cheap with a web camera and broadband connection.

confront to confront

Up till now, this is the best form of communication, the only downside is you although you can observe and receive the complete signals from your conversation party, the same thing can be said for the other party in addition.

So choose the proper communication tools to effectively bring your message across. The correct communication tools can enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your communication system consequently improving your business course of action.

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