6 Reasons All Entrepreneurs Should Play Chess

Entrepreneurs are notoriously strapped for time. Launching and nurturing a new business eats its way into every corner of your life, leaving little time left for fun. When you finally get to take a break, it’s a lot easier to find three minutes for a round of Candy Crush Saga than it is to devote a whole chunk of time to playing chess. (While some games last only ten or fifteen minutes, the longest recorded chess game lasted for five days!) But don’t be too quick to pack up that chess set. For an entrepreneur, time spent playing chess is an investment. Chess hones the same strategic-thinking and self-discipline skills that lead to business success.   

Know the basics

The rules of chess take some time to learn. So do the rules of business. And the people with the best ideas - entrepreneurs - aren’t always naturals at bringing those ideas to market because they don’t understand business fundamentals. Make sure you understand the basics of profit and loss before you invest more in a product than it’s worth.   

Focus on the goal

Getting sidetracked by short-term goals is one of the surest ways to lose a chess match. While you’re determined to capture your opponent’s pesky rook, he’s focused on one thing and one thing only: checkmate. While you’re busy chasing a single piece, he’s busy winning the game.  In business, as in chess, any move that doesn’t support your goal is wasted effort. It doesn’t make much sense to focus on launching your product before a competitor if that product is going to be inferior. Great chess players never forget that the goal is checkmate.   

Evaluate risk

Great chess players also know that you never sacrifice a bishop to capture a rook. Great businessmen know which tradeoffs are worth it and which aren’t - for instance, buying advertising that will cost more than your product will make is worth it only if it will open doors to bigger opportunities.  

Anticipate consequences

In chess, every move has a consequence. The best players think three or four moves ahead, and the best businessmen do the same. For instance, a major soft drink company once decided to pay its machine repairmen based on how many calls they made. Guess what happened? The repairmen figured out that they made more money by making lots of quick calls - even if those calls didn’t get the job done. In fact, since there was no penalty for making a second trip, some of them would intentionally do a job only halfway. Oops. The law of unintended consequences strikes again. When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to think about all the possible results of every move you make. If you slash prices, will your competitors do the same? Or will they launch an advertising campaign that portrays your product as inferior? What will be your response to each scenario? Don’t let unintended consequences put you in checkmate.  

Use all of your pieces

Nobody ever won a chess game by misusing their pieces. Likewise, successful entrepreneurs understand the value and function of each of their resources, and they use them advantageously. Make sure your key players are in the right jobs; for instance, if you’re in the midst of a major product launch, your marketing guru shouldn’t be trying to balance the books. Each piece has a purpose and works best when it’s used appropriately.   

Be flexible

It’s inevitable - whether in business or in chess, your opponent will eventually make a move you didn’t anticipate. You have to be able to adjust your plan on the fly. And that goes back to the first similarity between chess and business: understanding the basics. You have to understand the fundamentals in order to make the right moves.   Chess has been around for well over a thousand years, and its fans include some of the greatest minds in history and in business. That’s because chess trains your brain for the kind of strategic thinking that is crucial to success. Taking the time to master chess is an investment in your success.  

What other ‘games’ do you consider to be useful in the business world? Comment below

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