Why business is like... Chess

Like business, chess seems simple: there are a dozen or so rules that it's usually a good idea to play by.

by Jennifer Harris, director of JRBH Strategy & Management, www.jrbh.co.uk
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Start the game, though, and you soon realise how complex it is: after just three opening moves by a chess player, more than 9 million positions are possible. It's easy to get side-tracked by so many options, and before you know it, you can't see the wood for the trees - or the gameplan for the chess board.

In both chess and business, it's important to think several moves ahead, focusing on long-term strategy rather than on tactics. Love the firm or loathe it, low-cost airline Ryanair, for example, maintains a relentless strategy, and that has played a big part in its success. Everything it does is about minimising costs and maximising profit.

But, there is one major difference: in business, if you don't like the rules, you can always change them. Just look at Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary: he has torn up the rulebook and written his own. He has built his budget airline into one of the biggest in Europe by doing everything differently: cutting costs, eliminating frills (even check-in desks) - and insulting rivals in the process.

We're not suggesting he would beat current world chess champion Viswanathan Anand, but he'd probably charge extra to allow him to take his chess set aboard a Ryanair flight ...

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