Corporate strategies in tough times: Lessons from chess

IF you want to learn a lot about doing business, chess is the real game to play. There are various lessons it offers, which are more important and practical in managing business organisations. Chess is a complicated mental game that improves one’s individual and business skills, especially in strategy formulation. The game of chess has its foundation in India, but has spread around the globe. Applying chess principles into corporate strategies cannot only improve the overall strategy of business, but it can also provide insights into the competition by proffering various methods for winning in the corporate game.

guest column Emmanuel Zvada

It should be noted that chess and business have much in common, hence business strategists can use analogous thinking to draw insights from the game of chess. When you consider the parallels between what happens on a chess board and what happens in a board room, there are some elements that these two environments have in common. The chess game is about war and no one would really go into a war to be defeated by the opponent, meaning to say that you have to be firm and well equipped to defeat your opponent. That is the same with corporate strategy managers or business professionals have to come up with strategies that will make them winners at the end.

Companies that have failed to use strategic thinking and planning are a reminder to other business leaders to employ chess techniques in their industry so as to become successful. If an organisation wants to survive and prosper, its managers must think outside the box and come up with radical strategies just like a chess player. Chess can be used as a tool to improve one’s business and individual skills. Many of the strategies and tactics used in chess are applicable to business situations, and below are some of the benefits that business persons can learn and implement to their business.:

You learn to look ahead

Business forecasting is very crucial to our day-to-day operations. Failing to prepare and look ahead for challenges and opportunities in any business is risky as it can sabotage your business operations when faced with the challenges. Comparably, in the game of chess, only those who can foresee several moves ahead can play a good game of chess and ultimately win the game at the end.

It should be made clear that making a good forecast is critical to the success of any business just like in chess. In actual fact, you will be in a position to anticipate your competitors’ moves, product changes or any changes likely to happen in the business environment.
When one is making a move in chess, he or she must also anticipate the likely responses from the opponent or competitors. Businesspersons must be in apposition to anticipate the likely moves of competitors and come up with strategies to outwit competition.

Sacrifice and learning from mistakes

Successful entrepreneurs and businesspersons sacrifice a lot for them to grow their businesses and that is the harsh truth; you have to sacrifice your time and resources. Another sacrifice you have to be willing to make in order to become a successful entrepreneur, is to relinquish fears or doubts you have about yourself and your ability to deliver. Same as in chess, there are situations where you can sacrifice a piece, for example, a pawn in order to gain an advantage later on. This is similar to making investment decisions in business where you spend on things that will ultimately make larger returns later on. In short, you have to forego some things in business so that you will gain more in the near future, but that has to be calculative as aforementioned.

Learning quickly from your mistakes is far more important than people often realise. In chess, when you make a wrong move you can quickly learn and adjust so that you win the game. Same as in business; managers should have the ability to pivot quickly and adjust to the circumstances so that they remain relevant. In other words, they should be creative problem-solving in organisations.

Patience and endurance

Arriving at an important destination, one will pass detours and roadblocks in business, but achieving the goal is dependent on patience and perseverance. These detours will slow the pace in achieving the expectations, but with patience and endurance, the goals will be attained. In chess, you need time to place your pieces in the proper position before you can attack effectively, because an untimely attack will backfire. This is very analogous in business where you must patiently restrain yourself from making rash moves until everything is set. Quick decisions lead to regret, hence when someone tries to pressure you into deciding right; it is better to request a little more time before deciding.

You learn to think outside the box

Although chess has strict guidelines, the proficient player knows how to use his creativity to come up with surprise moves to defeat the opponent. If you research on world legends on chess, you will be amazed with the moves they made for them to become kings of chess.
Innovation propels companies forward. If managers learn to think outside the box, this can give businesses a distinct competitive advantage. If you cannot think outside the box then remove the box and come up with completely new exponential ideas that will help your organisation.

Critical thinking

When you apply reasoning and logic to unfamiliar ideas and situations in organisations, you will be in a position to think critically just like in chess. Chess helps people who play it to think critically and analyse any moves before proceeding.

When you make decisions without thinking, one wrong move can be extremely costly to the business just like in chess. Chess teaches you to take on complex situations under heavy pressure and deal with them. It provides the exercises to strengthen your thought processes to empower one with decision making skills.

 Emmanuel Zvada is a human capital consultant and international recruitment expert. He writes in his personal capacity

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