Tag: Fighting the last war

Don’t Fight the Last War


War, the absolute opposite of peace is a state of conflict between disagreeing parties and often comes with destruction and mortality.  In the world’s history, war, although minimal, is an on-going occurrence with two world wars particularly standing out. With armies dedicated to fighting wars, it is important for them to be well oiled, solidly structured and properly functioning for possible future wars.


The ‘Fighting the Last War’ Strategy

“Fighting the last war” is a strategic term used to refer to the situation where one focuses on what happened rather than what is likely to happen. The well-known saying is “Generals always fight the last war” where they tend to cling to previously used strategies and techniques to fight future wars that they will be faced with.


The ‘Fighting the Next War’ Strategy

This phrase acknowledges that analyzing past wars is important, but also says that we must always be prepared for the eventuality of a future one. This is done by coming up with new strategies according to the situation. It states by doing this, it increases the chances of winning the next war.

Many opponents have advocated that fighting the next war strategy is the best although this is not necessarily true. This strategy is hard to get right because when you fight the next war, you are inviting more room for error. This is because you are basically testing an unknown strategy, on a team in a hostile war zone. Even the name says it, you are already fighting the next war before you get there. You may guess right, but you may also guess wrong, which can be costly.


The Solution

A powerful solution that you could get your war strategy to go right for you is to combine these two. The familiarity and lessons learned benefits from fighting the last war, and the innovation and current situation analysis benefits from fighting the next war work great together.


Application to Business

Technology is rapidly changing and companies need to figure out what change is coming and turn it to their advantage. If they stay the same and don’t change they are likely to go out of business in the long run. If you look at the 20 largest companies, it is surprising how much turnover there is over time. So just as in war, businesses can’t fight the last war but need to figure out what the next one is likely to look like.