Journey of a Serial Entrepreneur

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How to get from where you are to where you want to be

Chess

“The chessboard is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the Universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature and the player on the other side is hidden from us” Thomas Huxley

Chess is a game that fascinated me during my teenage years. Like most strategy games, the rules for the game are fairly straightforward and, anyone can learn the basic rules of the game with relative ease. Developing deeper insight into the game is a completely different ball game. I developed an interest in the game after seeing a chess tournament in school. Seeing two players go at each other, in a mental dual was rather exciting. My learning was accelerated as I played against the computer initially, and spent countless hours learning to understand the intricacies of the game. Chess has many parallels to strategic thinking, and is often quoted as being “the” strategy game to play. Some of the parallels are:

1. Preparations and Foundations: I spent a lot of time studying the games of the grandmasters. This expedites and accelerates learning of the game. What is important at this stage is that you take the time to understand the reason for the  moves, and the rationale behind them. It takes much time to learn and understand certain opening formations and moves. The same applies to strategic thinking, we need to ensure our plan is backed with substantial research and thought, before we begin execution. 

2. Patience: One rash move in chess has the potential to unravel the entire game. It takes much patience and restraint to avoid making certain decisions without fully understanding their implications. A lack of patience  usually indicates a weaker player, one who is not thinking through the moves, and is often without a plan. Such players only evaluate the game on a move by move basis. I see this happen oftentimes with start-ups and younger organizations. Many of them are looking for instant results and success. Working towards such targets they often make rash decisions, don’t stick to the plan and give up too early. 

3. Sacrifices: Sometimes, we need to make sacrifices in chess to gain a position advantage, to get a win. Sacrifices and exchanges take place when a player is thinking past the monetary value of each piece. What often happens is that if your opponent is just looking at the game from a basic level, and is only concerned about collecting material, this is a perfect vulnerability to exploit. In business as well, we sometimes need to sacrifice current profits or even business units to help strenghten our position in the market. These are difficult moves to make and require foresight and trust in your instincts.

4. The Bigger Picture: When an opponent loses sight of the board as a whole and begins to only concentrate on a particular area he/she is attacking or defending, this is another exploitable vulnerability. It is critical to use all your pieces to their maximum potential during the game. This is a vulnerability that one will find in many strategic plans as well. The organization becomes so focused at times on one particular division that it fails to pay attention to what is happening on a macro level. By the time they zoom out, the damage is done and has the potential to be critical to the business as a whole. 

Listed above are just some parallels which can be drawn from the game of Chess. It is a game I recommend to all entrepreneurs. It can be studied on your own, and provides you with the ability to flex your analytical capabilities on a daily basis. It also tests your endurance and discipline levels, which are critical characteristics for all entrepreneurs. 

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