Games of strategy always have constituted a domain of preference for the amateurs of intellectual challenges.
Rules and objectives to achieve are specific to every games but, if you look at it closely, everything could be summed up to a question of domination : domination by the number, by the conquered space, by the accumulated gains… A domination obtained by the pure intelligence of the player and by his ability to take the relevant and quick decisions at the right time.
Therefore it is not surprising that the managers have looked at games of strategy to try and understand the strategic principles that could apply to their company.
We are not going here to make the catalog of all the games of strategy but to focus on the most symbolic ones and give some explanations onto their characteristics and on their possible contribution to business management.
Homour to whom homour is due, let’s begin with the king of game of strategy : the game of chess !
We know all the game of chess by the simplicity of its rules, its well delimited playing area (chessboard of 64 squares) and its set of chess-pieces each of them having its own strength and power and way of moving.
The principle is to mobilize the resources which we have got to counter the actions of the opponent, protect ourself and launch in turn attacks to force our opponent to unconditional surrender.
To win the players should anticipate all the possibilities of movement, got one or several hits beforehand on the opponent and do not hesitate, if necessary, to sacrifice a piece to take the advantage.
The chess is the archetype of the warlike and frontal confrontation, but it is also a model of planned strategic and prediction of the consequences of a decision.
In that respect, it has a strong similarity with the competitive world in which operate companies and their strong need for strategy to protect their market and at the same time develop it.
Let’s move now to the Go game.
It is often compared and opposed to the chess because its strategic aims are fundamentally different. Its principle is to conquer territories and to protect them with playing pieces, called stones, which have all the same functions, but the strength of which lives in their connection. The game begins on an empty Go Board – the goban – on which every player take turns placing the stones on the vacant intersections (named “points”). The Go game is an open game convenient to the strategies of invasion of the space and encirclement of the opponent.
It is more and more studied in the company because it corresponds to a global vision of the market, to new modes of network interactions and to aspiration to innovate by taking advantage of any new opportunity.
Contrary to a direct confrontation with the competition, a corporate strategy inspired by the Go game recommends a development by posing successive milestones which will be gradually connected with the others to assure the solidity of the set.
And last by not least, let’s talk about poker.
You will find numerous comparisons on the net between chess and the Go. All explain very well the differences of strategic approach of both games.
I am not going to develop a brand new comparison between these two magnificent games, but, and at the risk of being a little bit iconoclastic, I would not want to leave this strategic subject without taking about card games and in particular about poker.
In the chess and Go, the players have in the beginning of game the same number of pieces and everything is visible on the chessboard or on the goban. It is not the same in the poker and that introduces three essential strategic items which do not exist in two other games : the luck, the uncertainty and the bluff.
Let’s begin with the luck factor. Contrary to the games of pawns above, the distribution of cards is random in the poker. The players do not begin the game with the same means to win it. They can be good or badly served according to their good star.
Besides all the cards are not revealed. Some are not distributed, others are but stay dark side on the carpet, the others are jealously hidden in the hands of the players. Thus the players ignore all the assets provided to them to play and even less those held by their opponent. They have to make decisions of game in an uncertain context by proceeding by suppositions, deductions and intuitions.
Moreover they cannot trust the indications given by their opponents who can tell the truth as they please or mislead them by bluffing.
We find obviously in the poker the chance, the uncertainties and the doubts to which are confronted the managers and the need for them to ally intuition and intelligence to make good decisions.
What beginning of conclusion could we pull from all this ?
First of all, to plagiarize and divert in a shameless way Pierre Dac’s quotation, I would say : the strategy is difficult, especially when it concerns the future !
A good strategist has to know the various strategic approaches and do not hesitate to implement them advisedly.
A priori it seems less brutal to apply the rules of Go but direct and immediate confrontation, like chess, also has its virtues. Question of temperament and personality. In any case you should never hesitate to pass from the goban to the chessboard and vice versa.
The rules of poker teaches us that you should never underestimate the opponent, nor neglect the luck factor, and advises us not to take as granted what is not proved true.
Finally it is necessary to count on and to play with the time, to manage it as well as possible, to unwind our strategy determinedly without hastening things, and if necessary, to slow down the game to leave the time to our competitors to make errors. I would recommend you for this last point to read the Stefan Zweig’s great novel : the player of chess.