Strategic Thinking Empowers an Organization
Jim Eagerton Tuesday, February 13, 2018
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Successful companies need leaders who can empower their organization from the knowledge and experience they derived from powerful and effective thinking. Depending on the phase of their business, leaders need to be cognizant in transformational (opening-startup), situational (middlegame-growth), or results-based (endgame-exit) style leadership as their company matures.
In previous articles, we established one word definitions for strategy (choice), candidate moves (possibilities), strategic thinking (analysis), and tactics (opportunities). This issue continues the series of skills successful leaders need and that is their use of strategic thinking.
Strategic Thinking – 3rd Step in the Process
The first step in empowering an organization is determining a strategy or choice of actions available given the situation. In a business that might be growing your company through organic growth or by acquisition. Tech companies often grow up to a level, get acquired and cash out. In chess your strategy might be to attack your opponent’s king and deliver a winning checkmate.
The second step is selecting the candidate moves that could be played to implement the strategy you want to follow. Candidate moves are the possibilities we should consider in implementing our strategy. In business, candidate moves might be to build a sales force, develop a sales funnel using Facebook ads, or doing a JV with a partner.
In chess, players will generally find two or maybe three useful moves that should be considered. Once candidate moves have been determined it’s time to consider and evaluate each move.
The third step involves determining which of the candidate moves we should play and that process requires strategic thinking. My definition of strategic thinking is analysis. It’s the analysis of the candidate moves you previously selected, determining which one is the best and committing to act on that choice.
So in chess, pursuing a checkmating attack means pushing your pawn into the enemy fortress which forces open lines to the opposing king. How do you know for sure it’s the best move, enter the position into a grandmaster-level playing computer and it will figure it out for you.
The greatest competitive advantage startup companies have is forward-minded thinking. In business, we know that developing a sales funnel is a strong move to analyze when we want to acquire more clients. But before jumping into action, your analysis might include split-testing your marketing choices to determine which is the most effective.
Then you have to implement your choice by taking action. In chess, you analyze the quality of the three moves you are considering to determine which gives you the best chance of success. Then you make your move, hit your chess clock and let your opponent start their strategic thinking.
In demand by employers, the “soft skill,” of critical thinking, is necessary for sustainable success, although it is difficult to measure. Powerful computer chess playing programs, called engines, can help players verify thought processes they used during the game.
In business, companies hire independent auditors or consulting firms that can identify where the company strategic thinking might need improvement. Companies may use computer models to assist in their thought processes but ultimately they generate the moves based on their strategic thinking.
Bill Gates Does a “Butt Fumble”
The two positions below are taken from a chess game that’s been viewed millions of times on YouTube. Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, was playing against Magnus Carlsen the world chess champion. Bill started out the game with good strategic thinking by opening up lines for his pieces. His “thinking” however quickly jumped the tracks on the 3rd move of the game.
In the first position Bill had every right to be worried about losing his pawn located on the E4 square. He could have traded it off on D5 or pushed it ahead to E5 attacking the knight on F6. But he decided to guard it and played a very “beginner level” move. The second position shows he moved his bishop to D3 which guarded the pawn but destroyed all the coordination and possible teamwork from the rest of his pieces.
The bishop on D3 blocks the pawn on D2 which blocks in the bishop on C1 which gets in the way of the rook on A1 and so on. In one move his poor strategic thinking put his game at a significant disadvantage especially against the world champion. Such a play in football would be analogous to the infamous ‘butt fumble” Mark Sanchez suffered as the quarterback of the New York Jets.
Mr. Sanchez on a busted play ran into the rear-end of his own teammate fumbling the football to the New England Patriots who picked up the fumble and ran it in for a touchdown. Bad things happen when players on the same team run into each other.
That video has also been seen millions of times. Bill Gates went on to lose on move 9 in this game in part because his strategic thinking was not up to the task and several of his pieces never got into the game. If Bill Gates and Paul Allen had gotten in each other’s way this badly when they started Microsoft, personal computing would have an entirely different history.
Business schools use this process repeatedly in their case study method classes. The chess playing model of thinking allows leaders to use better strategic thinking to make better decisions that improve company profits. Next Issue: Leadership – Tactics Are Opportunities That Give Us a Winning Advantage.
J.K. Egerton is the CEO and founder of Business on the Board™, a leading-edge talent development company that uses a game-based approach with business strategies and tactics. His book, Business on the Board, is a #1 management self-development bestseller that reveals how business and chess are related. It’s available nationwide.