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055: Divide et Impera

The history of Divide and Conquer.

Jeremy Finch
Jeremy Finch
2 min read
055: Divide et Impera

You've heard this phrase before, right?

People use it all the time in business settings to mean "let's be efficient".

Or, "let's break a big project into smaller parts and get it done quickly in teams".

In the programming world,
it's also an algorithm.

But where does it come from?

And what does it mean?

"Divide and conquer" refers to an old military strategy: A way to seize power by turning one's opponents against each other. By isolating multiple factions, they become more vulnerable than a cohesive whole.

The phrase has been traced back to a Macedonian King in ~350 BC. It's been referenced by a wide variety of people (Napoleon, Machiavelli, Julius Caesar etc).

The theory = By sowing discord and distraction, individual groups will become more susceptible to manipulation. By undermining potential alliances and spreading general distrust, a larger force can gain - or maintain - a strategic advantage.  

When I discovered the historical origins, I was shocked.

The phrase has nothing to do with modern project management or efficient task distribution. And everything to do with power and control.

Where do you notice this strategy?

Is it effective?


Related :

041: Imaginary Pie
On taking breaks, and zero-sum thinking.
057: Negotiation (II)
Follow-up to Negotiation - Part I.
009: Thinking Fast + Slow
The definitive user manual for your brain.

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