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Bobby Fischer Teaches Systems Thinking


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Yes, Systems Thinking. Disguised as chess.

One of the great challenges that faces small business people – and big business people – is tunnel vision. Ever wondered how it can be dangerous, and how you can overcome it? Consider the following…

I’m reading “Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess.” No, I’m not a brainiac. I’m just a person who has taken up chess again after more than 30 years and I’m tired of getting my pants beaten off. So my chess partner recommended this book, and after a few more humiliating defeats I went out and bought it.

I go to bed with Bobby Fischer. I ride the train with Bobby Fischer. And I have to say, this is a great book. It’s very simple, consisting of picture after picture of scenarios where you’re asked to identify whether or how one side could either checkmate the other or escape checkmate. You’re given the answer on the next page.

Like I said, very simple. My six year old niece could probably absorb this very quickly and then she could beat my pants off, too.

Well, I’ve been reading the book, and one of the key lessons that are being pounded into my head is to remember to Watch The Entire Board. Brilliant strategies fail miserably when you overlook the one thing in that corner over there and a Bishop zooms in and takes your Queen. Ouch!

I was struck by another important lesson the other day. Bobby and I were taking the train into the city, and I was getting a lot of the answers right – more than half, anyway. There was one scenario where I was pretty sure the answer was, “No, White can not checkmate” Black in this scenario. I turned the page and…. Doh! Wrong again! What? Surely not! Oh. Again I was looking at the board with tunnel vision, thinking about the possibilities only in certain ways, and I completely forgot that a Queen can move diagonally as well as forward and backward. Doh! That’s pretty basic.

And so I would have missed an opportunity to solve a situation quickly because I forgot about the capabilities of one of my pieces.

Which made me think: How often do we in organizations fail to utilize all of the talents of the people on our teams because we overlook their ability to move diagonally as well as up and down? How often do we limit ourselves by forgetting our own capabilities? How often do we miss opportunities because we don’t even see the opening in that corner? Or we see it, but think, “Oh, I can’t do that” or “I don’t know anyone who can help.”

If you’re feeling stuck or at a loss for ideas, I highly recommend that you spend $7.99 on “Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess” – and that you read it. Not so you can obliterate your opponent, or even avoid getting shellacked by your opponent. But it may change the way you look at situations and people – including yourself.

And you’ll look like a brainiac on the train.

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6 Responses to Bobby Fischer Teaches Systems Thinking

  1. Janie June 24, 2010 at 7:48 am #

    Love this! I may take up Chess!!

  2. Beth Waitkus June 24, 2010 at 10:08 am #

    This reminds me of whole systems strategy…wonderful analogy.

  3. Mark Dykeman June 24, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

    You know, this is quite a cool concept. I’m quite tempted to pick up the book. Thanks for writing this!

  4. Susan T. Blake June 24, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

    @Janie, Beth and Mark, thanks for the comments!

  5. Sinclair July 2, 2010 at 12:22 pm #

    Ok, I’m going out and buying the book. Thanks for the recommendation, and the comment on my site the other day. You made me smile.

  6. Susan July 4, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    Thanks Sinclair! Great to see you here!

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