Learn from the best chess players…

There is a significant difference in the mindset of a chess (or any game) player, as contrasted to the mindset of a businessman.

You see any game, chess or otherwise, forces you to enter the arena with a single thought in mind – to win the game.

Business transactions however allow the people involved to approach with an assortment of options and choices as to the best outcome they hope to achieve from an engagement.
In business, we sometimes choose to cut our margins in order to win the deal – or delay a competitor from winning a deal. We may choose to think ‘Win/Win or No Deal’ – to ensure that we are playing fair with our competitors, our vendors and our customers.

In a game context, we can only think Win – because that is the nature of game theory. There can only be one winner. In business, we are both strategically and tactically inclined to consider various options at all times, and not necessarily are all of them to win at all costs.
How many times have you heard a coach tell his team…’just play the game…don’t worry about winning’
In stark contrast, how many times have you heard your Executive or leader say that he/she is willing to forego a business opportunity because it does not fit well with the Organization’s business principles.

Just because somebody knows the first four moves in the Ruy Lopez opening in Chess does not mean he/she knows whether to counter with the Berlin defense, or the Schliemann, or the Classical defense…so it is not necessarily true that knowledge of Chess with all the nuances and intricacies of opening, middle and end game, automatically translates into some great learning for us. The truth is that there are utterly divergent motivations in the game of business and the game of chess…and never the twain shall meet!


What Leaders can learn from the game of Chess would be to think like a Grandmaster. To have the innate ability to ask questions throughout the process…just like the great Grandmasters are trained to do. So what are the questions and how do they apply to our Leadership roles – here are a few examples:

* What is my opponent doing now that threatens me? (self explanatory – think competition)

* What am I doing now to threaten my opponent? (self explanatory – think counter strategy)

* How are the pawns structured – mine and my opponent’s (big picture…how is my organization position versus my competitors…what kind of strengths/weaknesses do I see, how are we deployed versus our competition – where do we have distribution, dealership strengths/weaknesses, what is our staffing position, etc.)

* Can I visualize the next 5/6 moves I would like to influence my opponent to make (think vision, anticipating competition’s next moves, etc)

* Do I see any imminent checkmate opportunities for myself or my opponent – if yes am I suitably defended? Are there holes in my opponent’s position that I can exploit? (think weaknesses we may have in the market? Strengths our competitors may have in the market place?)

* How safe is my King (think key Clients/Accounts you would not like to lose)

* Do I see any gaps in my opponents defense – any gaps in my own defense? If yes, how can I exploit my opponent’s weaknesses…how can I plug my own weaknesses? (self explanatory – this is like a SWOT analysis we perform routinely)

The above are some of the basic questions great chess masters are consistently thinking though and asking themselves…great questions for Corporate Leadership to consider and apply to their roles as well!

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