Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Back to Square 64! :)

I love HBR, the topics it deals with, its language and its overall ‘attitude’. It is one magazine that I think has a clear ‘bias’ in favour of people-related aspects of business. I identify with most of what they opine and find myself agreeing with most of what they have to say. I’d love reading it every month but just don’t get the time. Sometimes - I am glad - that I do manage to catch up. For example, I am glad I managed to read the April 05 edition and this post is about an Interview that it features with Garry Kasparov (GK). The article is titled “Strategic Intensity” and has some profound thoughts expressed by GK. I’ve captured some excerpts of whatever matched my frequency at the time of reading the article – what I thought was hard-hitting and intriguing.

On being asked what was the similarity between business and chess, GK says

“Success in both chess and business is very much a question of psychological advantage”

“There is nothing cute or charming about chess; it is a violent sport, and when you confront your opponent you set out to crush his ego…….it is a battleground on which the enemy has to be vanquished”

“Never, ever, underestimate your opponent….Body language matters. It can give your opponent the feeling that you’re losing thus giving him a psychological advantage.”

Part II: Now is when we come to the most interesting part of the interview, in my perception - It brings out the fact that GK believes that chess is a game that requires the player to ‘strike a balance between intuition and analysis’. It later comes out that GK more often than not swings towards intuition rather than analysis to win the game.

“Intuition is the defining quality of a great chess player”.

“(In chess) you reach a point when you’ve got to navigate using your imagination and feelings rather than your intellect and logic”

“Often, your gut will serve you better than your brains”

“What made those players great was not their analytical prowess but their intuition under pressure”

“I do not look at a mathematical solution when I play chess. I’m always trying to find something unconventional, even poetic – something more than analytics”

GK moves on to explain what he calls the Champion’s Dilemma. The CD is what stares a champion in her face once she has conquered all that there is to conquer. GK quips “The greatest challenge for all successful people is to get past their own successes”

GK goes on to say something that jolts you though it is not impossible or so very unexpected – especially in the field of sports. His bitterest competitor is, he says, his reason d atre’. It took Karpov to make him a Kasparov. (He does talk about his mother’s role in his life and successes, prior to mentioning Karpov’s role). He says it was Karpov that made him feel challenged and it was he who made him scale greater heights. In short, it was competition that made Kasparov the man that he is today…after the initial scaling that was inspired by his mother. It is sort of disquieting to think that it took Karpov to give the world a Kasparov, for this in a way opposes the concept of pure intuition and vision. It indicates that even intellectuals like Kasparov bank on competition to spur them on. And…intuition and vision are a result of original and creative thinking that comes from connecting with the universal intelligence. You’d think that an intuitive person like Kasparov, as per his own admission, would not wait for external factors like competition to spur him on. But I’m forgetting that it is a different environment altogether in the area of sports and business! I have to give it to GK that he certainly needs an opponent to play a game of chess! The better and more challenging the opponent, the better the game! I can’t tar all of life with the KM (collaboration) brush! ;)

GK, by the way, admires Steve Jobs in the world of business as he thinks the latter is a visionary unlike other CEOs who he perhaps thinks are more numerically inclined and process oriented – ‘into the details’ types and risk averse more often than not. But he adds that Steve wouldn’t be what he is if not for Bill Gates. :-) :

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