5 lessons Product builders can learn from Chess

Since ancient times chess strategies have been used in the business world. After learning the principles of chess for months and concurrently building a few technology products, I could spot some very important chess lessons that any product builder can use it to create distinct advantage for their product:

(A) Defining pieces

In chess, each piece has a distinct style of movement, attack and value assigned, where the king is the one to whom everyone is protecting and serving. Similarly a product builder needs a team to serve its King, who are the users of the product and a product builder needs to act like a Rook (♖ ♜) who has unbounded vertical and horizontal movement and guards the King (Users, in our case) at the castle.

King= Users; Rook= Product Builders

(B) Clearly defining the aim of the game

In chess, the aim of the game is to eradicate opponent’s king, while shielding own’s king and in the process to achieve this, the player plans moves and keeps iterating the moves at every step to win the game. Similarly, while building out product, the builder needs to clearly define the problem the product intends to solve and define each process/iteration clearly, whether it is to create a better user experience, increase user engagement or to test new features and what are the best KPIs to measure these new rollouts.

(C) Listening

In chess, every time a piece is being moved, the opponent questions the motives of the move and analyses the potential threats that piece might have to its own positioning and pieces. In other words, for every move a player makes the opponent is trying to understand the “Why” behind that move. Similarly, a product builder needs to be conscious about the unvoiced and voiced needs of the customer by being empathetic to customer and by testing hypothesis on data or by framing questions in such a way that reveal the truest intentions of its customers. This begins with establishing ground truth about a problem and starting there.

Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers.
- Robert Half

(D) Understanding the big-picture

In chess, both the players keep a conscious watch on each of their and opponent’s piece and its movement, and observe the board from a distance to foresee the potential threats and moves. Similarly, a product builder needs to look at the game from distance to observe and anticipate what kind of technological trends will disrupt its market/product or what kind of new consumer behavior are being formed or which direction is society/new policies going on? All these questions will enable the builder to foresee the impact of any of these on the product and craft a better user experience.

(E) Importance of RIGHT positioning

In chess, even if the player has fewer pieces remaining on the board, but if those pieces are at an important and attacking position, the player can triumph over the opponent. Similarly, the product builder needs to find a unique position for its product in the market which can allow its product to win in the market and have an edge over the competition.

These are few of the lessons, chess taught me about building products, feel free to write in the comments what did chess taught you about building products or anything in everyday life.