Mastering Business Strategy at the Chess Board

The game of chess has a long and storied history. Early versions were played from about the 6th century, while the modern game has been played since the mid 15th century. Even as technology advances, chess remains one of the most challenging and educational games around. It’s been used to teach military strategy and to improve critical thinking skills.

While most people are familiar with the intense challenge chess provides the brain, you might not realize how much it can teach you about marketing and running a business. Two key lessons involve pragmatism and playing the "long game."

Pragmatism

To be successful at chess, you must be pragmatic. You need to be able to think on your feet. While most successful chess players have concrete strategies they enjoy using, no player can completely predict the moves their opponent will make. That means they must be able to make decisions on the spot.

A good chess player also has the skills needed to read their opponent. Through experience, they can often anticipate an opponent’s next move and will devise strategies based on what those moves might be. This gives them the insight they need to succeed with the next skill: playing the long game.

Playing the long game

A chess player knows that one must be willing to sacrifice a pawn or two for the long-term goal of winning the match. A good player will never get so caught up in an individual "battle" that they lose sight of their end goals. Chess players are continuously looking to the finish and developing their strategies based on their desired outcome.

How these lessons relate to marketing

Pragmatism

To be successful in marketing and business, you must realize you’re not going to be able to completely control every factor in your industry — or even in your company. You can’t control the response of your audience, what your competition does, developments in the industry, and other factors. Instead, you must be able to adapt your business and marketing strategy to whatever’s going on around you.

That said, a successful marketer will be able to "read" their intended audience and anticipate the type of marketing that is most likely to solicit a response. They’ll also be able to change their strategies based on customer actions and industry trends.

Playing the "long game"

When you’re successfully managing a business, you must always have your end game in mind. You can’t allow small upsets to disrupt your goals and strategies. You must have the presence of mind to know what you’d like to accomplish and what you need to do to get there. That might mean making a few sacrifices here and there to reach the end point. You don’t want to get so caught up in the small battles that you lose sight of where you want your company to be in the long term.

Chess has been used for centuries to teach strategy and improve critical thinking skills. As you sit down to play your next game of chess, think about how the strategies you learn on the chessboard can be applied to making your business a success.

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