Break The Pattern – Chess & Business

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I attended a great event last week on using chess strategies in business. It was presented by the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, New York Chapter, and held at the famous Marshall Chess Club.

Speaking were international chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley and business guru (and chess buff) Bob Rice.  Ashley showed us various chess positions and strategies to enhance those positions, and then Rice would give us real-life examples of how certain companies successfully employed those strategies in business.

One such strategy is called “Break The Pattern”. Typically, chess players and people act in a natural progression. Let’s call it 1, 2 and 3. However, what if, we instead broke that pattern and moved in a different pattern such as 2, 1 and 3?

To illustrate the point from a chess perspective, Ashley showed us a chess board where the white player’s natural move would be to move one’s Knight so that it would be able to capture the opponent’s Rook. This move leads to white losing his Knight and exchanging Queens. In Chess, a Rook is a much higher valued piece placing the advantage in these series of moves with white.

However, Ashley shows how one simple change (albeit unorthodox) places the white player in a dramatically superior position. He explains that instead of moving the Knight to take the Rook, white should use his Queen to take the Rook. Now most players would not make this move because a Queen has a much higher value than a Rook. However, Ashley shows how by making this move first, white is able to take black’s Queen thereafter and avoid losing his Knight. Instead of exchanging a Knight and a Queen for a Rook and a Queen, white retains the Knight giving him a huge advantage. You can watch these series of moves on my 888 Red Light Facebook page.

Rice then explained how Groupon used this same “break the pattern” strategy to created a $6 billion business in two years. Prior to Groupon, companies for years tried to crack the group-buying market losing millions of dollars in the process. He explained that the model of accumulating buyers and, then, trying to get a bulk deal just didn’t work. Group-on broke the pattern by first securing the steeply discounted deals from the sellers on the condition of getting an agreed minimum of buyers and, then, looking to aggregate the buyers. Buyers assist in meeting the minimum by blasting their social networks. This one simple move allowed Group-on to succeed where its more conventional predecessors did not.

As you think about improving and innovating in your business, see if the “break the pattern” strategy makes sense.

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