We all know the story of Hannibal, the great Carthaginian general. He took his army over the mountains (with elephant!) into Italy. No one expected this kind of surprise. He spent 17 years rampaging through Italy, beating every general Rome could send against him. Rome was terrified. They didn’t know how to stop this force. How to defeat him?
The great Roman general, Scipio, asked a different question. What do I have to do for Rome to survive? He quit asking himself how to defeat Hannibal. This was clearly not a good question because it never got them anywhere. But ask the right question and solutions appeared.
The answer Scipio came up with is don’t engage Hannibal in full scale battle where his ability was superior. Try to cut down the enemy’s ability to forage. Harry him. Put psychological pressure on him and try to keep support from home from arriving.
Needless to say this wasn’t popular with the Roman senate. Scipio was constantly criticized as a coward, as lazy and as a man who couldn’t do the job.
But Scipio had a clear vision of what was necessary. He knew that the Carthaginian leaders were more interested in trade and profit and Hannibal was viewed as a drain on their profits. Time was on Scipio’s side.
Through careful political maneuvering and occassional small victories he kept his vision in play.
Finally after 17 years Hannibal was called home. He left Italy, abandoning his army. He attempted to get more support from home but was assassinated and thus ended Carthage’s best chance to keep Rome at bay.
Hannibal and Scipio both had clear visions of what they wanted to accomplish. Scipio was able to convince his compatriots to stick with his vision and trust him. Hannibal was unable to get his people (except his army) to stick with his vision. More money, more armies and Rome could have been crushed. He was unable to make his vision clear.
Clarity of vision and the ability to sell it triumphed over great ability and genius.
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