DEFINITION of Judo Business Strategy

Judo business strategy is a plan for managing a company by using its speed and agility to mitigate the effect of its competitors, as well as to anticipate and take advantage of changes in the market through new product offerings. The judo business strategy consists of three components:

  • Movement (using the smaller size to act quickly and neutralize a larger competitor's advantages)
  • Balance (to absorb and counter the competitor's moves)
  • Leverage (using the competitor's strengths against it)

BREAKING DOWN Judo Business Strategy

The strategy is drawn from the principles of judo, a Japanese martial art, and was used as a metaphor in the book Judo Strategy (2001) by David B. Yoffie and Mary Kwak. The origins could go further back to "judo economics," a term coined by economists Judith Gelman and Steven Salop to describe a strategy when starting a company in a sector dominated by a large competitor.

One of the major aspects of judo is to use the size of the opponent against him or herself. As a business strategy, it is designed to give smaller companies an advantage by using the perceived advantages of a larger competitor – namely, size – against the competitor.

How Judo Business Strategy Is Applied

Startups and other small businesses might seek to put this strategy to work when contending with larger rivals in their market. The principles and tactics within the strategy include a focus on the core business that is being developed rather than ancillary ideas. This is much like judo practitioners squaring up and finding firm footing as a match begins.

Another principle is to stay on the offensive without getting caught up in one direct attack. This is an effort to wear down the opponent by shifting the points of attack quickly without allowing the opponent to lock into a solid defense or push directly back. By altering where and how leverage is applied, a judo practitioner seeks to break the footing of his or her opponent and to divert any counterattacks the opponent might put up. From a business perspective, a smaller business could use its flexibility and capacity to change its points of attack to confuse a larger competitor that may have solidified its operations in rigid directions and has difficulty adapting.

Preparing and planning to pivot from a judo perspective means to use situational and spatial awareness to think through where and when to alter offensive moves to better take advantage of a new opportunity to attack. Startups, in particular, must remain aware of their position, condition, and prospects to advance by adopting new approaches. Sometimes, the initial plan does not result in the kind of success that was hoped for. By looking at opportunities that have arisen, the company can better position itself with a new approach.