The game of chess is revered the world over because it combines the best parts of politics, military strategy and sport to provide what can be an enthralling pastime or a highly competitive sport. Having played chess since my early though not at a noteworthy competitive level I still enjoy the game very much and the many lessons it holds for us. With lessons about life, power and relationships aplenty in the game it still somehow finds a way to also pack business lessons in there. Here are some great business lessons we can draw from the game of chess.
Have a Strategy
We all experience one day at a time but that doesn’t mean we have approach life one day at a time. Just as in life in chess we may only play one move at a time but having an overarching strategy makes for a great game with better chances of winning. You can move pawn and knights around randomly and could lucky but if you want to get somewhere having a strategy is the best way to get there.
Adapt or die
There are many situations in which individuals or groups are required to adapt. Just as you have a strategy in chess your opponents will have strategies of their own. So while you have a plan set in place in the words of Mike Tyson “everybody has a plan until they get hit in the face”. What matters of course is your ability to adapt to the changes in the game. Zimbabweans need no education on the nature of an environment with shifting tiles. In chess, we find a way to adapt to the changing environment as we do in business.
Another important thing the game of chess taught me is perspective. While a game of chess is a series of moves that can be grouped into battles there is a bigger picture of the whole game to look at. What I have seen in many businesses are people looking at the immediate effects of something. However, they do not realise the long term effects. When coronavirus came to our shores the general thinking was since we are locked down we should just sell online or remotely. What many didn’t realise at that time was that their customer’s incomes had been affected by lockdown and they simply did not have the money to continue being customers. the ability to see both the big picture and the small picture is as key in chess as it is in business.
Carrying on from the previous point another important lesson from the game of chess that can be adapted to life is the ability to think ahead. While many will think only of the current move and perhaps the next one Masters and Grandmasters are known to think 4 to 6 moves ahead. That involves anticipation and considering contingencies. This is an important skill in every sphere of life that happens to be very useful in business. A good example of this is a salesperson who anticipates the questions a prospect would have and answers them before they are asked. Makes a world of difference.
Another great lesson chess teaches you is to be creative. When playing against an opponent you have an objective or strategy which you would prefer to keep yourself. There are many ways to hide a strategy and they all come down to creativity. The same can be said of defensive moves which require you to imagine your way out of hairy situations. It will teach you to find new and imaginative ways of navigating in and out of situations. Business requires this of you, to imagine ways into and out of situations using creativity.
Just as a bonus tip remember that all pieces or parts of your chess team can be useful. The key is knowing when to use them. Those who understand the game will understand jokes about the rook being asleep until its time to Castle or about knights moving in a very awkward L shape. But in a good chess strategy, all 16 pieces can be useful. In business, a lot of opportunities and resources go unused because of how small they seem. Yet those same small things can have a big impact on the business.