19. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

故能而示之不能用而示之不用近而示之遠遠而示之近.

Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu is saying that in order to succeed in war, a commander must be able to mislead and deceive the enemy. This might involve feigning weakness when you are actually strong, or appearing to be far away when you are actually close. The idea is to keep the enemy off balance and confused, so that they are unable to anticipate your movements and respond effectively. By using deception and misdirection, you can gain an advantage and ultimately achieve victory.

Therefore, when we have the ability to act, we must appear to be unable; when deploying our resources, we must appear to be inactive; when we are close to our goal, we must make our competitors believe we are far away; and when we are far away, we must make them believe we are near.

Your business can intentionally downplay its capabilities or resources, in order to make your competitors underestimate its strength. For instance, your company might publicly announce that it is facing financial difficulties, even if it is actually doing well. This could make your competitors believe that the company is vulnerable and less of a threat, and might make them less likely to invest in competing products or services. As a result, your business can gain a competitive advantage and be better positioned to succeed in the market.

Appear to be inactive or uninterested in certain opportunities or markets, in order to mislead its competitors. For instance, your company might publicly announce that it is not planning to enter a particular market, even if it is actually preparing to launch a new product or service in that market. This could make your competitors believe that the market is not worth pursuing, and might discourage them from investing in it. As a result, the company can gain a first-mover advantage and be better positioned to succeed in that market.

Create the impression that your business is further from achieving its goals than it actually is. For instance, your company might publicly announce that it is still in the early stages of developing a new product, even if it is actually close to completing it. This could make your competitors believe that your company is not a threat and that they have more time to prepare for the product’s launch. As a result, your business can gain a strategic advantage and be better positioned to succeed in the market.

Or your business can create the impression that it is closer to achieving its goals than it actually is. For instance, you company might publicly announce that it is close to completing the development of a new product, even if it is still in the early stages. This could make your competitors believe that your business is a threat and that they need to act quickly in order to stay ahead. As a result, your company can create pressure and confusion among your rivals, and gain a strategic advantage.