Business leaders and chess masters often have numerous common traits and characteristics. There are multiple similarities between chess strategy and business strategy, so it stands to reason that one can learn how to be better at business by gaining a thorough understanding of the game of chess.
Thibaut de Roux is HSBC Bank plc’s former Global Head of Markets and has a keen interest in the commonalities between chess and business management. Learning to play chess can teach us a lot about how to run a successful business. There are also countless cognitive benefits that can enhance all areas of life.
Chess, much like running a business in a competitive market, is all about outthinking the competition and staying at least two steps ahead of the game at all times.
Understanding Your Opponent
In chess, the best players are those that understand not only their own game, but also the game their opponent is playing. They are adaptable and psychologically ready for anything that the opponent may throw at them and they never underestimate the person sitting opposite them.
In business, the most successful managers are those that understand the competition and marketplace just as well as they understand their own company and product. Good business leaders are adaptable and ready to deal with disruptive strategies that competitors may throw at them, and they always have a counter-plan ready to deal with unforeseen complications.
Being able to anticipate what the competition is likely to do next, while remaining adaptable enough to deal with a curve ball, is a trait shared between great business leaders and chess masters.
Thinking Long and Hard About Every Move
Mediocre chess players will stare at the board unit they find a move that looks good from every angle, then they will play that move. Great chess players will keep looking to see if there is a better, move, even after finding a good one. Rushing into business decisions without all the relevant information can result in losing out on opportunities that were perhaps less obvious. Ensuring all the information is present and considering every option before finalising a decision is the route to success in business, just as it is in chess.
The successful management of resources in business firstly requires understanding the value of each of those resources and learning to prioritise. Knowing the value of every single employee, associate and customer as well as the financial value of products and services ensures leaders are able to deploy the right people to the right places and the right solutions to the right problems.
Chess masters need to know the value of each piece on the board, not only individually but as it relates to all the other remaining pieces. In both business and chess, there will always be times when sacrifices must be made. Knowing which piece, or which resource, can be best sacrificed for higher long-term gain is essential for success.
Balance Analysis with Intuition
In chess, there is a constant balancing of analysis of the situation and intuition, with that intuition having been honed through months and years of practice. Business management requires careful analysis of each situation as it arises, but there are also times when leaders need to use their intuition to make difficult decisions.