In chess, you can play defense and try to keep the other player from pushing ahead, or you can go on the offensive and try to capture their pieces in a relentless pursuit of checkmate. In Netflix's smash, The Queen's Gambit, chess prodigy Beth Harmon was famously "all offense." And she sent every other player running as a result.
Here's what business owners can take from Harmon's chess strategy.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense
Most chess players - and business owners - are naturally defensive in their approach. It's easier to keep what you've got and hope the other guy makes a mistake than it is to look ahead and visualize a plan of attack. By shifting to an offensive strategy, you not only shake your opponents out of their comfort zone, but you get to dictate the state of play - and the market.
Playing offensive chess (and business) lets you:
- Be proactive instead of reactive.
- Gather and drive momentum.
- Shape the pace and style of play.
- Move forward instead of standing your ground.
Keep Your Eyes On The Leaderboard
Beth Harmon was a stellar player, and she knew it. She was unwavering in her belief in her ability and applied herself rigorously to becoming a grandmaster. She never doubted that she could take on the world's best - and win.
Playing the offense in business requires the same self-belief and commitment. It's about looking to the leaders in your field, figuring out their strengths and weaknesses, and leveraging them to your advantage. Failure to do that means risking that they'll leverage your weaknesses. Want to move forward in business? Be like Harmon and keep your eyes on the top of the leaderboard - soon enough, you'll find that your competitors are the ones playing defense.
Winning is More than Not Losing
It's easy to fall back into those old defensive strategies. Being on the offense requires constant vigilance - and a bold, fearless approach just like Harmon's. To make sure your business is playing offense rather than being reactive, ask yourself the following at every decision-making juncture:
- Am I moving towards something or away from something?
- Am I playing to win or trying not to lose?
If you find yourself treading water, avoiding making big moves out of fear, or trying to take the easy path forward, you're getting into the defensive danger zone.
Offensive Strategies and How to Leverage Them
Chess has hundreds of specific offensive and defensive strategies that pros memorize and leverage to their advantage. Every move has a countermove, and every countermove has even more countermoves. Business is the same. But overall, offensive strategies can be grouped into the following:
- The attack. This is where you cut prices, capture your competition's market, or get ultra-critical in your advertising. Amazon (and politicians!) are great at this.
- The runaround. This is where you bypass the direct competition and go after untapped segments of the market.
- First-mover. Being the first to plant your flag is a winner's move. Get there first, and your competitors will have to fight to dislodge you from your throne.
- The buyout. Got deep pockets? You can always buy out your competition so that they're no longer a threat. The tech giants love to do this.
Next time you're thinking about your business strategy, visualize the path ahead as a chessboard. What will it take for you to get to that all-important end game? Just like in chess, there's a timer in play. The trick isn't to hope that your competitors mess up. It's to play the offense - all the way to check, and mate.
Need some help honing an offensive business strategy that will take you to the top of the leader board? Let's set up a match!