Entrepreneurship and Chess: Why Strategy Works

The one thing that all entrepreneurs have in common? A competitive spirit. But not just your typical competitive spirit, one that fully understands a challenge from all angles and how to see past the stress of “right-now” problems to find a solution. These are solutions that not only solve the problem at hand, but also clears the road of future blocks.

It should come as no surprise that the entrepreneurial spirit has many similarities with those who are expert chess players. An entrepreneur looks toward the end game, as one does in chess. Being able to diagnose any situation and create a quick and effective strategy to improve your position is also one of the biggest factors in a game of chess. It’s not very likely, however, that you would peg a chess player as being inherently competitive; we tend to connect competition with loud and fully encompassing sport. In reality, chess players thrive under the mindful and competitive spirit of the game. This is yet another intersection between entrepreneurship and chess: some of the winningest masters are consistently calm, cool, and collected.

In this blog, we’ll explore why strategy is such a huge part of entrepreneurship, and how, like in chess, it’s crucial to long term success.

Establishing the Endgame

In chess and in business, an objective needs to be established. Questions like, “What is the goal of this business deal?” and, “What is the goal of this merger?” are just pieces of the puzzle. In chess, the goal is pretty simple: capture the king piece. In business? An answer to that may not be as clear at first glance, but should always be identified and as specific as possible. For instance, a great goal could be that you want to become the first startup in the world to solve x issue, and so on and so forth. This will act as the base of your strategy.

Always Two Steps Ahead

Having a clear goal is a great starting point. But the skills that will propel you throughout your tenure as an entrepreneur are a bit more complicated, and can be found in every move of a game of chess.

We touched on this earlier, but staying two steps ahead is absolutely essential as an entrepreneur and when executing and creating strategy. Having that endgame in the back of your mind at all times is crucial. You’ll need to be able to focus on that while solving issues that come up on your path to fulfilling that objective, or else you’ll either burn out fast or get defeated fast. The same goes for chess. If you’re not seeing plays two moves ahead of the move you’re on, you’ll become stressed by the minute details that are standing in your way of capturing the king. Every move you make should have several possible outcomes that are already equipped with solutions ready to go. If you can’t do this, it’s likely not in your best interest to make that move.

Knowing The Value Of Every Piece

To be a true master of strategy, you have to know the value of every single tool in your arsenal. A beginning chess player may think that the pawns are throwaway pieces, since they can’t do all of the tricks that other pieces can. They are there to serve as a first line of defense to set up other moves and protect your strategy, and even there in all their limitations, they have incredible value — they offer things that other pieces cannot. In chess, there is also something called pawn promotion. In this instance, if the pawn makes it all away across the board, you have the choice to change it to any piece. In other words, sometimes power is hidden in the weakest looking objects. Never underestimate any person on your team — encouraging and trusting them can help them flourish even more.

The same is true of your business; there are always going to be levels of valued employees as well as some strategies that work better than others, but value cannot be duplicated. If you don’t know the value of your tools, how can you use them? The more tools that you have an understanding of, the better. This is a basic part of strategic planning, and will take you far in business, let alone chess.

These similarities between business strategy and chess will only help you as you move towards a successful entrepreneurial career. It’s important to keep your head and take challenges as they come, but to always have that endgame in mind. If you do this, you could find yourself to be a champion in both mindful sport and strategic business in no time.

Originally published at nirronen.net.

Nir Ronen is the Managing Member of qSpark Capital. He is also an avid traveler. http://nirronen.org