Empire Theory, Part I: Competitive Landscape
Empire Theory, Part I: Competitive Landscape

Empire Theory, Part I: Competitive Landscape

Empire Theory is a framework for understanding and practicing competitive strategy. Competitive strategy is the art of defeating opponents. (Page 1)

First, by recognizing the patterns of these strategic players, it’s possible to infer a vast amount about the strategic landscape on the basis of relatively little evidence. Second, a deeper understanding of strategic moves and opponents’ incentives allows us to better craft our own competitive strategy, through predicting, planning for, and responding to behavior. (Page 2)

Here we use empire to mean a group of coordinated actors that operate around some central power. Coordinated actors are those people using discernible mechanisms for aligning their actions to achieve particular goals. (Page 2)

The actual central power may not be the ostensible central power; for example, a startup might be de facto run by its CTO rather than its CEO. An empire then, being a group of coordinated actors, will among those actors always have some kind of central power that is maintaining coordination. (Page 2)

Empires are composed of players, resources, and other empires. (Page 3)

Coordination mechanisms — both natural and artificial — and people that are not sufficiently powerful to be relevant for the overall functioning of the empire are also considered resources. Finally, empires are fractal: empires contain other empires. (Page 3)

The fractal nature of empires follows from the fractal nature of coordination mechanisms (Page 4)

In a given empire, the dynamics of the most central sub-empire have a large effect on the rest of the empire, and control of the central sub-empire is important to top strategic players as it yields control of the rest of the empire (Page 4)

If the president cannot control the cabinet, then it will be much more difficult for him to control the executive branch. (Page 5)

A great deal of resources then tends to be spent on control of the central sub-empire. (Page 5)

Unfortunately, this outsized expenditure is not the result of corruption and whimsy, but political necessity — a lot of what we usually call “corruption” stems from political necessity. (Page 5)

The problem of local focuses increases in larger empires because the more power an empire has, the more skilled players are attracted to it. (Page 6)

This will frequently reveal that global moves, which may seem inexplicable on the global scale, have their origins in local problems that are comparatively trivial. (Page 6)

The coordinated actors in an empire will have differing amounts of power. (Page 6)

Like empires, power classes are fractal. The same actor can be classified as Low, Mid, or High depending on the frame of reference. (Page 7)

High is the central power that defines an empire’s zone of coordination. Without high, the empire would not exist and the other actors would not be coordinated. (Page 7)

Mid is the collection of individuals or groups that have sufficient power to challenge high’s control. (Page 8)

Since each individual mid-player controls notably fewer resources than high, you have to coordinate more of them to reach the same capabilities that a single high player can provide. (Page 8)

As mentioned earlier, certain actors are best modeled as resources. Any actor that cannot independently challenge mid is best understood as a resource, because these actors will not be relevant for understanding the empire. (Page 9)

A strategic landscape is a domain of competition among players. (Page 11)

Most actions are ambiguous, so unless they are interpreted through a definite hypothesis, investigation has no clear direction and uncertainty cannot be resolved. (Page 11)

the accumulation of facts without knowledge of the domain of competition will perhaps correctly show the functioning of some systems but will fail to predict changes in the system. (Page 12)

To understand their dynamics or even correctly evaluate the facts on the ground you have to identify either a definite conflict point, or their overall strategic aims and position. (Page 12)

In the competitive scenario laid out, it would only make sense for an unpopular or weak congressman to go with social justice, and only temporarily, since all the social justice (Page 13)

Empires are domains of competition. (Page 13)

If you want to compete in this strategic landscape, you will have to navigate it, taking into account the powers of the other players in determining your path. (Page 14)

Now we can parse this: in a domain of competition, aspects of the behavior of high, mid, and low players will be consistent and recognizable. (Page 14)