When people think of the word strategy, they will often picture the game of chess. Why is that? I suspect it’s for a variety of reasons, but simply put, chess is a thinker’s game. People intuitively understand that there is a complex thought process involved in mastering the game, and it’s not a game of random movements.
But beyond the heart-pumping, adrenaline-causing, high-drama world that is chess, I think there are some other valuable lessons in this classic game.
First, chess involves skill which means it can be improved with intentional practice studying from others better than you. But often in the business world, people stop studying after a certain point in their careers. Apparently mastery comes early to most.
Second, chess involves making a move which requires making a decision. You can’t move every piece a little in all directions. You move (and commit) to moving one piece at a time. This simple truth eludes many professionals. They wait for more data before ever contemplating any decision. But like professional chess, the clock is ticking, and there are implications for no decision making.
Third, if you’re the kind of person who is fine with making quick decisions because you value agility, recognize from chess, that each move should build on an overarching strategic plan. If a chess player bounces from a strategy of position to mobility to material between each move, the chances of winning drop dramatically. A chess master executes moves towards a consistent strategy. A business person should be making decisions with a known set of outcomes in mind over time as well. Confusing agility of thought with a decision without consequences could be disastrous.
Games can be quite instructional to business leaders, if we let them. Vanity and arrogance can often be our worst enemies.