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Business Strategies From The Chequered Board

Chess requires lessons, practice, focus, and the skill to read the board and rely on oneself. Here are a few lessons from the chessboard that translate well to business.

People Playing Chess

For all the dignified air, deferential silence, and controlled moves, the two people sitting across the black and white chequered board are engaged in a battle. Though business isn’t necessarily one, quite often, several parallels are drawn between the two.

Looking to chess to succeed in business can present some handy lessons and valuable insights. Here are a few that may sound simple yet are crucial in the long run.

First – learn the rules. On a chessboard, it’s necessary to be thorough in the basics. Translating that to the business world would mean getting the fundamentals right. Know what is working and what is lacking. No one can create the next ‘disruptive technology’ without first understanding the one prevalent now.

Then, set the goal. The game’s aim is to protect the king at all costs. Every business, large or small, should know what it is working towards. It can be as humble as being the best in the locality or as grandiose as changing the very face of the industry. Whatever it may be, spell it out – transparently, lucidly, and often.

Subsequently, work towards the goal. Every move on the chessboard is made with one objective. Protect the king. To do that, the player must do away with the opposing army and its leader. While, in the corporate world, vanquishing would likely mean one-upping the competition, the process is the same. Work diligently towards and align all actions to achieve the set goal.

Further, use resources wisely. Even the humble pawn contributes immensely to the game. It is vital to know the value and purpose of each component of the business, be they personnel, technology, R&D, or clients.

Always stay focused on the goal. Chess is based on planning and anticipating. It’s all about strategies - which will need to be adapted or abandoned based on the opponent’s moves. Here’s the crux – even as the business responds or reacts to the markets and competitors, the successful ones don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal. The prolonged, dedicated focus could mean the difference between winning the game and winning the tournament.

These are lessons for the beginner and the expert. They never become redundant. Unlike other sports, chess is a game where sacrifices are made on the board while the game is on. It’s a humbling and enlightening lesson to give up the less valuable to earn a bigger prize. What to sacrifice and when is based on strategy and learned from experience.

Now, what sets up a good chess player/businessperson from an average one is more visceral.

When faced with the unexpected, one crucial factor comes into play – instinct. Sound knowledge, hours of practice, the arsenal of strategies – all these trains the intangible, primal sense, called instinct, into a reliable tool.

As one of the greatest chess champions observed, “It’s often at the very toughest moments of their chess battles—when they had to rely on pure intuition—that great players came up with their best, most innovative moves.

Employ the brain (acquired knowledge) and the gut (innate) to defeat adversity and reach set goals.

Perhaps, that is the most excellent lesson chess has to offer business owners.


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