Strategic Thinking According to Kasparov

I enjoy chess, but seldom give myself the time and space to sit down for a game. After Kasparovreading Harvard Business Review’s interview with world chess champion Garry Kasparov, I’m re-thinking that.

Kasparov uses his deep experience with chess to teach, write, and speak about strategic thinking and decision-making*. For business leaders, his insights are astute.

Here are a few quotes from the interview that resonated with me, as I’ve found them to be true both in my own business and as I’ve worked with owners and leaders across diverse industries:

On building upon – and using to advantage – your own particular skills, abilities, knowledge, tendencies, and personal characteristics:

“You have to understand who you are, know what you’re capable of and what you’re not, and then try to construct a game – or a deal or a campaign – in which your superior qualities will be factors and your disadvantages will not be displayed.”

On becoming better by facing stiff competition:

“To discover what you’re capable of, you need strong – or even better – opponents. It’s like an iron in the fire: When pressed at a very high temperature, it either breaks or turns into steel.”

On the crucial importance of staying nimble, and always open to learning:

“Many people think that if something worked yesterday and is still working today, it will work tomorrow. That’s wrong, because people on the losing side will come up with a new strategy. I stayed on top for 20 years because I knew that even if you win, there are things to learn.”

The brief HBR interview gives just a few nuggets of Kasparov’s thoughts on these topics – it left me wanting more. Maybe it’s time to set up that chess board.

*Not to mention the role he’s come to play as a pro-Russian-democracy leader…but that’s a different topic.


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About Paul Kirpes, TPG Companies

For over 35 years, Paul J. Kirpes, Founder and President of TPG Companies, has transformed businesses, corporations, communities, and ventures in the private and public sectors throughout the U.S. as well as internationally. Paul empowers companies, their owners, and leaders to Transform, Perform and Grow!
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