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Chess and Business

September 30th, 2004 · No Comments

[via Anish Sankhalia] Fast Company has an article by Garry Kasparov:

Ultimately, what separates a winner from a loser at the grand-master level is the willingness to do the unthinkable. A brilliant strategy is, certainly, a matter of intelligence, but intelligence without audaciousness is not enough. Given the opportunity, I must have the guts to explode the game, to upend my opponent’s thinking and, in so doing, unnerve him.

So it is in business: One does not succeed by sticking to convention. When your opponent can easily anticipate every move you make, your strategy deteriorates and becomes commoditized. So, yes, a sort of courage is paramount. But that courage must be tempered by other less-glamorous qualities.

For one thing, the game requires the discipline to think beyond the present — and beyond yourself. You must consider not just your side of the board but also your opponent’s. For every move you ponder, you must mentally calculate your opponent’s response — not just the immediate one, but those 10 or 15 moves ahead.

At the highest levels of chess, before you touch a piece, you are playing out an entire game of moves and countermoves in your head. In effect, you are thinking for two people. In business, too, successful strategists think not just about their own new products, pricing, and marketing but also about how their rivals will respond — and how to respond to them. Can you imagine not doing so?

Smart executives, correspondingly, must understand that their competitors are at least as smart as they are. Only the most arrogant fail to acknowledge that they do not have a monopoly on brainpower, ideas, or will. In chess, I know that my rival sees everything I see. Even if I do the unthinkable — a bold, unprecedented move calculated to leave him gasping — I must assume he has anticipated it and will have an equally daring answer. Call it the courage to accept humility.

Tags: Management

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