Chess, Strategy, Design….

…they all like to come from one mind

There is a reason why chess is not a team sport. If you and I would play chess together against a seven year old, we would lose miserably. If we would try to negotiate every move we would run out of time and/or get into a fist fight. If we would decide to avoid such fate by taking turns in making moves without exchanging views, we would just plain lose. I’ve witnessed brightest minds go into to the room to tackle the problem with great enthusiasm, coming out with majorly disappointing results.

It’s a similar dynamics with Strategy and Design. They are both multifaceted, multi dimensional, long term, deep thinking disciplines. Very often there is no rationale or logical explanation why you decided to go one way and not the other. If each of these choices would be put to discussion results would be similar as in chess: standstill without the decision or safe decision that doesn’t serve the purpose. There is no Strategy or Design that is at the same time safe and brilliant.

While Frank Gehry was designing Guggenheim Bilbao and Steve Jobs was betting a whole company on an MP3 player and ability to renegotiate business model of the music industry, nobody was ready to call it a safe move or brilliant design/strategy. Everybody was, at best, standing aside waiting to see the results. If they had to say something, it would be a safe advice: maybe not so fast; maybe not the whole industry at once; maybe not so curvy; maybe a museum shouldn’t be a piece of art itself, but only a shelter for the real art; MP3 market is not big enough; big labels will never give in….Luckily for us, both of them kept strategic decisions for themselves.

If you’d ask me why did I design a blue house for you and not yellow, I might try the following: “2+2 is 4, multiplied by number of months is 48 divided by number of inches in a foot and a result is blue. Can’t you see it?” But bottom line, honest and fair answer is: “Because I like it”. And dear Client, if you have said at the beginning that you like yellow, I could have made it yellow, because yellow is another beautiful color, but now when everything is done and tied-in in blue, I don’t know what to do except to start from the beginning reimagining a yellow house.

This is not to say that there is no help when you play chess - one can move the pieces, other hit the timer, third keep the notes, they can even discuss and suggest moves….but the only way to get brilliant results is for executive strategic decisions to come from one mind.