Violence and overwhelming rapid force — Heinz Guderian

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The science of assault

Heinz Guderian

Heinz Guderian

Most violent confrontations among civilians are fairly mundane affairs, consisting of bumping, pushing, a lot of yelling, and, occasionally some throwing of punches.

Mostly it tends to look like a ritual dance or some sort of shuffle.

These confrontations includes a lot of what we commonly refer to as telegraphing, with the parties to the confrontation telegraphing their intent to fight if necessary (and, through the slow escalation, allowing for the backing down of their opponent or intervention of by-standers, their willingness to back down) and, once the confrontation has gong into the punching phase, telegraphing their tactical intent, throwing, for instance, wide and slow punches.

In contrast, professionals don’t telegraph. In fact, telegraphing is entirely contrary to the objective of a professional, which is to finish the confrontation as quickly as possible and with a minimum energy expended.

Generally, in a violent confrontation, professionals follow a three step approach, adapted from the assault principles of close quarters combat.

First, the professional is prepared and committed. He or she has trained before the confrontation, brings better equipment or skills to the confrontation, and when the potential for a confrontation arises he or she chooses it and commits to it before the opponent does.

Second, the professional leverages his or her commitment into surprise, engaging before the opponent has committed to the confrontation, and frequently using some technique to confuse the opponent while he or she is closing the distance.

Third, once the professional engages he or she uses maximum speed and maximum violence of action against the opponent. This conserves energy and maximizes physical and psychological momentum which is essential to ending a confrontation quickly.

To see a professional engage an opponent is completely different than watching the shuffling engagements of everyday street fights. For bystanders and the opponent it is shocking and disorienting, primarily because it bears no similarity to what has been observed before — either in real life or in movies. It is also a lesson that one never forgets.

In Clarendon in Virginia at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday night, a group of men learned the lesson when they threw a ball around as they were leaving a bar, hitting a passing black Range Rover.

The driver of the Range Rover got out, brandished a handgun, and struck one of the group in the right cheek with the firearm. He then fled the scene.

This action is the hallmark of a professional, engaging immediately, bringing overwhelming force (a handgun) and violence (pistol whipping) to the confrontation and disengaging immediately once the violence has been applied.

To bystanders and the victim this must have been truly shocking, leaving them with no ability to process what was going on. If the police blotter reporting the incident is accurate then this went down in such a way that I doubt anyone on the scene had the wherewithal to note the license plate of the Range Rover or use one of the ubiquitous mobile phones to capture images of the assailant.

Pistol whipping, of course, is an exceptionally violent technique and a far cry from what we see masquerading as the technique in movies. It originated in the handgun culture of the 19th century’s United States, and most often results in significant injuries, including concussion, skull fracturing, and significant lacerations — all of which may have life-long maiming effects on the victim and some of which may kill.

Bringing pistol whipping to bear in a confrontation is a significant step up from punching and has a devastating psychological effect on the victim and bystanders.

The interesting thing, of course, is that once a confrontation is over, people will digest and analyze it.

What conclusion the group involved in the confrontation in Clarendon will reach we don’t know for sure, but, certainly, if they are rational, then they will never again throw balls around — or at — passing traffic when leaving a bar in the middle of the night regardless of any perceived strength they may draw from being part of a group or being intoxicated.

The business lessons

The success of a company is a function of its ability to build up, apply, and maximize a competitive advantage, most frequently as embedded in superior products or offerings.

The moment we bring a new product or offering to market our competitive advantage starts to decay, and even as we are ramping up our sales, the rate of decay accelerates. Therefore, our objective is for our launch to start abruptly and to, in our launch, apply maximum marketing muscle, overwhelming our competitors’ ability to respond, and extending their response cycles as much as possibly. Ideally, we want to dazzle our competitors to the point that we can capitalize on the market and exit from it before they enter it.

This, of course, is similar to the three step approach of the professional.

It is also the way that Apple has traditionally done business:

  • Maintain strong research and development. Build a product in secrecy. Commit to the product before your competitors commit to similar products.
  • Maintain secrecy prior to launch. Once launching, apply your assault using the Schwerpunktprinzip, isolating a center of gravity for the assault — a point, territory, or vertical where a decisive action can be achieved.
  • Once engaged move swiftly, using a substantial part of the incoming revenue to accelerate your assault. Follow the guiding principle of Heinz Guderian, one of the key architects of the Blitzkrieg doctrine, to “Nicht Kleckern, sondern Klotzen!,” applying all force in the assault. Finally, disengage before your competitors are able to regroup and engage.

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