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Summary

In Strategy: A History, Sir Lawrence Freedman, one of the world's leading authorities on war and international politics, captures the vast history of strategic thinking, in a consistently engaging and insightful account of how strategy came to pervade every aspect of our lives. The range of Freedman's narrative is extraordinary, moving from the surprisingly advanced strategy practiced in primate groups, to the opposing strategies of Achilles and Odysseus in The Iliad, the strategic advice of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, the great military innovations of Baron Henri de Jomini and Carl von Clausewitz, the grounding of revolutionary strategy in class struggles by Marx, the insights into corporate strategy found in Peter Drucker and Alfred Sloan, and the contributions of the leading social scientists working on strategy today. The core issue at the heart of strategy, the author notes, is whether it is possible to manipulate and shape our environment rather than simply become the victim of forces beyond one's control. Time and again, Freedman demonstrates that the inherent unpredictability of this environment - subject to chance events, the efforts of opponents, the missteps of friends - provides strategy with its challenge and its drama. Armies or corporations or nations rarely move from one predictable state of affairs to another, but instead feel their way through a series of states, each one not quite what was anticipated, requiring a reappraisal of the original strategy, including its ultimate objective. Thus the picture of strategy that emerges in this book is one that is fluid and flexible, governed by the starting point, not the end point. A brilliant overview of the most prominent strategic theories in history, from David's use of deception against Goliath, to the modern use of game theory in economics, this masterful volume sums up a lifetime of reflection on strategy.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2013 Lawrence Freedman (P)2014 Audible Inc.

What listeners say about Strategy

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Needed a strong editor and a snappier reader

I feel bad giving this work a modest rating. In many ways it is a great work of scholarship. I'm not an expert in this topic, but it certainly seems like a comprehensive review of strategic thought in an impressive range of disciplines. I learned plenty from its accounts of the various approaches adopted by communist revolutionaries, civil rights leaders and others.

Unfortunately this breadth comes at the cost of a lack of focus. An effective editor could have halved the length of the book and lost little of value. For every instructive exploration of different strategic debates there is a pointless detour into something irrelevant. Near the start of the book the author spends ages relating the biblical tale of the plagues God set on Egypt, despite himself acknowledging that a mythical scenario enacted in full by an omnipotent deity has no relevance to strategy. In the final section, just as he is supposed to be drawing out some overall lessons, the author mystifyingly recounts at length the full plot of the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, without drawing any clear lesson from it.

The effect is that the book never really rises above a series of historical accounts, and the reader is left little wiser about the potential for cross-cutting approaches to strategy. The account ends with a somewhat limp conclusion that strategy is basically communication, and is therefore like drama. Maybe that is the best that can be done, but this reader was left wondering whether there was a clearer narrative buried under the movie reviews.

This was exacerbated by the reading of Michael Butler Murray. Mr. Murray has a pleasant enough voice but an odd intonation. Every second sentence is read with a kind of wistful languor as though his dog had died years ago and he is savoring the memory. The effect is soporific, making the convoluted writing harder going.

For the student of strategic thought there is more than enough interesting material here to make it worth slogging through the mournful reading and excessive length. But a stronger supporting editor and reader could have made Mr. Freedman's undoubted scholarship far more compelling.

110 people found this helpful

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lacks Focus and dragging on Endlessly

The author veered away from the subject so much that I doubt that even he knows what the book is about. I tried completing it, giving him a chance to come back to the subject, but after fourteen hours of listening I couldn't take more

12 people found this helpful

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Disappointing

Cumbersome writing, poor narration. Did not deliver on my hopes, and the narrator mispronounced words left and right.

8 people found this helpful

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Excellent story, but a bit too long

Excellent book that overviews vast history and areas. The problem is that it lacks clear frequent milestones to pave the way. As a result, it is difficult to follow sometimes and the book looks a bit stretched.

7 people found this helpful

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Total waste of time

The author has made the ultimate mistake of writing about everything he has read to show off how erudite and knowledgable he is. However, I wanted a book on strategy and not a narrative on sociology, economics,the bible, politics. Anyone can read other books and mention them in a dialogue without actually showing their relevance to the fundamental discourse at hand.

43 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant book - awful narration

What would have made Strategy better?

Can we have a version spoken in English rather an American

Who was your favorite character and why?

N/A!

What didn’t you like about Michael Butler Murray’s performance?

His pronunciation and style of speech is extremely irritating. Gloucester is meant to be said like Gloster not Glowsester. His speaking of foreign names is awful. I find his style so irritating I cannot concentrate on the book!.

Any additional comments?

If you are English - avoid - it is supremely irritating. Freedman is English - let's have the book read by an English voice please.

41 people found this helpful

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OMG. What a total waste of time...

What was most disappointing about Lawrence Freedman’s story?

Having completed an MBA in strategy, I thought lets see what history has to say about it. It was a total waste of time. The author goes on about reciting things from bible and all sorts making it very boring. I lost the plot in many of the times. Talk about wars and strategy is sort of ok, however, I think any normal history book would have described events and the core strategies much nicer without having to use the word strategy. Absolute waste of time. I tried for listening to up to 12 chapters to see if it goes any better moving on, lost hope. Delete..

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment.

14 people found this helpful

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An epic and comprehensive history of strategy

A huge listen galloping across many of the best known names across military, political and business strategy. Well performed and informative with some really interesting linking of concepts.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Lack of substance

This is a very widely researched book but makes no effort to dig below the surface on any of its topics. Reads like someone trying to bluff a presentation with pretentious language but no real purpose.

1 person found this helpful

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Good intro to strategic thinking

Good overview of how strategy has evolved over time and where it was used. However, sometimes too focused on certain events. A historical approach to how strategic thinking changed and evolved.

1 person found this helpful