World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand Giving Business Lessons!
World chess champion Viswanathan Anand will be teaching 'chess' lessons as they apply to the corporate world on September 8. Anand will be talking to a C suite audience on boardroom lessons at the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum on September 8 in Mumbai. In an exclusive e-mail interview with Business Line, he talks about what businesses can learn from chess. Excerpts:
The world knows you as a chess player, but this is a new avatar for you. What prompted this? I have been giving speeches at various conferences in India and abroad. I did for the first time at Vienna and enjoyed the interaction.
What are the learnings from chess which can be brought to bear in real life? Chess in a larger sense is a mirror of life. You can see it in your attitude towards management and business. It’s all about taking calculated risks and standing by it. Gaining territorial advantage, be it on the board on in your rival’s mind, is a battle won.
What can businesses learn from sports and sportsmen? We strive for excellence. Even success or a victory doesn’t mean you can stop, it only means you have raised the bar for yourself.
What can businesses learn about strategy from chess? Chess is a complex mental game. In the olden days, rulers planned their war strategies from chess, so in a modern day environment, chess teaches you attitude, skill and lateral thinking. Many financial managers and lawyers play chess. It teaches them to dissect large amounts of historical data and make the right decision.
Chess is all about preparation, risk taking and decision making. In chess we have no way of remedying a bad decision — once we make a move, we have to stick with it.
In chess, as in business, winning separates the great from the merely talented.
What are the strategies essential to win? How can businesses — or CEOs — adapt them? The constant need to learn and stay abreast of what’s happening in the game. A failure sometimes will have the best lessons that success can sometimes mask.
Chess is the ultimate test of strategy. But it is also the ultimate test of an individual’s strength of mind. Even if two players are equally technically skilled, the one with the stronger mind and winning focus ends up the champion. Is this strength of mind something one is born with — or can it be developed? If so, how? Talent has to be in-built. There are different kinds of talent and their approach to chess reflects that. I tend to be an intuitive player, so I know a move to be good or bad by looking at it. I don’t need to spend a lot of time on it. But on the flip side, you may make hasty decisions. So, experience has taught me to look at a move, then try to convince myself it’s a good one. In chess, preparation is the key. But having the mental focus right till the last move is essential. You can play fantastic chess, but if you blunder in the end, it becomes redundant. Over the years, you develop skill and try to camouflage your minus points by stressing on your strengths. In the end, chess is sport — you have to learn to hang in there till the end, even if the game is not going your way.
If it took only logic to win at chess, computers would defeat humans every time. The reality is otherwise.
What is the plus factor that top chess players bring to the table? Intuition. We know what to look at when. A computer will start at point zero each time.
Should CEOs learn to play chess? If yes, why? Surely. It helps them think. Most CEOs I know who play chess, tell me before an important decision, they like to play a game of chess; it helps them sharpen their thoughts.
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