Muhammad Ali was famous for the “rope-a-dope,” a technique he used to beat defeat George Foreman and regain the heavyweight boxing title. What Ali did was stand on the ropes and let Foreman pound away for more than seven rounds. Foreman eventually wore down, and Ali went on the attack, knocking Foreman out in the eighth round. The strategy was effective because of his patience and ability to absorb as many punches as it required for Foreman to tire.

A business-version of this strategy can also be very effective.

Everyone works with people who like to talk first, talk second, and then talk some more. Maybe then they’re willing to let somebody else talk. While it’s tempting to dive in early on to interrupt and get your points across, doing so often makes them even more resolute about talking.

If you have the patience and the mental fortitude, consider letting them talk themselves out. The strategy provides an opportunity to more fully understand what’s on their mind, look for gaps and contradictions, even ask questions, and then go for the last word. It’s not applicable all the time, but it often can work to your advantage.

So go ahead and comment; it’s your turn. I promise I’m listening!
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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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3 Responses to “Rope-a-Dope”

  1. Seth says:

    Clearly Ali was one of the greatest boxers of all time (if not the greatest). Being a fan of the sport, I’ve seen this bout many times. However, I never gain any popularity amongst friends and fans by pointing out that Ali repeatedly grabbed the back of Foremans head with his glove in the clinch. If there was a different referee that night, things may well have turned out differently.

  2. Mike Brown says:

    Seth – As we talked in person, I don’t know if I’ve seen the whole fight start to finish, but I do remember hearing the results on radio when it happened.

    Boxing is another interesting strategy area. Coupled with your interests in chess, we still need to get you do a guest post on applied strategy!

    Take care,


  3. Kent Evans says:

    Mike, great stuff. I’ve had to really work at this, but have found that growing my listening capacity has made me much more effective. First, I learn a ton more about where folks are coming from, which allows me to meet their need and/or influence them more directly, as the situation demands. Second, it makes them much more willing to listen to me when I want to share something.

    Agree big time. Nice post.