“There is no place where espionage is not possible.” –Sun Tzu
The rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War was a frightening time to live. The cloud of nuclear threat hung on the brinksmanship of political leaders and the efforts of intelligence services trying to decipher their opponent’s intentions. Cold War American and British spies developed a set of unofficial rules when operating in enemy territory. Known as “Moscow Rules,” these guidelines were wisdom bombs for deep cover agents:
Assume nothing. Never go against your gut. Do not look back; you are never completely alone. Vary your pattern and stay within your cover. Do not harass the opposition. Pick the time and place for action. Keep your options open.
The various business applications of Moscow Rules are plentiful enough to fill a stand-alone book, but “do not look back; you are never completely alone” deserves closer examination. If you’re a pessimist, this rule is interpreted as watch what you say and do because you never know who’s observing. That’s certainly true, but since you are a person of integrity that should never be an issue for you. Spin it just a little, and the positive meaning of this rule is that someone on your team always has your back, so there’s no reason to constantly seek that validation.
Another rule that sticks out is, “vary your pattern and stay within your cover.” Cover for a spy is the persona they adopt while in the field. Our cover is our mission and business acumen. Varying our pattern means we should always strive for positive change by maintaining a future-oriented outlook. When we seek opportunities to grow our business “within our cover,” we can operate in any unknown territory because we operate by a clear set of guiding principles.
Who knew taking lessons from real-world James Bonds could help you succeed?
Moscow Rules: Accelerators
- Which of the Moscow Rules seem most applicable to your business, project, or workplace?
- How do those rules regularly play out in your business, project, or workplace today?
- How can you apply the positive aspect of those Moscow Rules going forward?
Dr. Jeff D. Standridge is the best-selling author of “The Innovator’s Field Guide” and “The Top Performer’s Field Guide.” He serves as Managing Director for the Conductor and Innovation Junkie, and teaches in the College of Business at the University of Central Arkansas. Jeff helps organizations and their leaders generate sustained results in the areas of innovation, strategy, profit growth, organizational effectiveness and leadership. Learn more at InnovationJunkie.com.