How To Apply Chess Principles To Business

How To Apply Chess Principles To Business

Jun 14, 2016, 1:47 AM |

If you’ve ever played chess, then you know what the key to winning is: strategy. But did you know that the skills and principles you learn from chess can be applied to other areas of your life too? Business is one such area where the parallels between chess and real life really shine. Below are some tips to help you apply these chess skills to your professional life:


Go for the checkmate


In any business endeavor, there is an endgame. In chess, that endgame is to vanquish your opponent’s army and back their king into a corner (literally or figuratively speaking). But while you may not be on a seek-and-destroy mission with your opponents, or rather your market competition, you are striving to come out on top. This could mean backing the competition into a figurative corner by outperforming them, acquiring their clients, or one-upping their product prices.


Understand the inner workings


Just like an employer would, a chess player needs to know the capabilities of each piece in their arsenal. Knowing how and when to make a move is one of the building blocks of the game’s strategy. And going one step further, you should also use all of the pieces in a game, leaving no one out. If an employer were to leave an employee off their radar and give them no tasks, that employee would not be reaching their full potential for the betterment of the company. Plus, keeping staff that don’t have any job functions would be a waste of company resources and that employee probably wouldn’t be too happy with their work life either.


Compare short-term vs. long-term gains


Much of the strategy employed in chess comes down to weighing your options, and often forgoing short-term gains in service of a more favorable outcome in the long run. For example, one of your pieces may be in a situation in which it can capture one of your opponent’s more valuable pieces. Does that mean that you go for it? Not necessarily. You might decide to stay on track with your strategy and not underestimate your opponent. In business, the same idea applies, and can take on many forms. For example, a company that chooses to invest in growth by purchasing a new fleet of technological adjuncts is taking a calculated risk and hoping that it pays off in the long run through increasing productivity and gaining a more skilled staff.


Recognize finite resources


When it comes to business of any kind, resources are a major factor in the success of a company. And while businesses may inherently have more resources than a chessboard, there is still some crossover between the major ones: time and manpower. Throughout the game, it’s crucial to consider how you intend to lever each one. One marked difference here, though, is that when your opponent (competitor) captures (poaches in a hiring sense) your employees, the manpower goes to use for them rather than remain idly “off the board.” That makes this particular resource even more valuable, as the loss could be felt twice over in the business world.


Get in your opponent’s head


Not all chess skills are tangible – for example, the psychology behind it. Very few, if any, rulebooks will instruct you to learn the “tells” of your opponent—most will stick to the hard-and-fast rules. But, as in poker, there is a huge benefit to being able to read your opponent. Some of your opponents may exhibit nervous tics when their strategy is off course, but others may feign such tells to try to throw you off. So try to see it coming. In terms of business, this all boils down to knowing your competition and studying their habits in order to keep your market edge or call them out on any bluffs.


Despite the many similarities in principle, chess and business do have one factor that is hugely different: the human element. Chess is a game concerned with the bottom line, which is to capture your opponent’s fleet and force the king to surrender. Business, however, needs bridges to be left unburnt and so must cater to relationship building over a show of force. So no matter what principles you choose to apply, always consider the people involved.



Kelly Smith works at CourseFinder, an Australian online education resource. She is passionate about the Australian startup scene and new marketing trends.