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

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.

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