I have cheated a little and borrowed the term “Masterclass” from the NILF agenda for my blogpost as it seemed the most apt way to describe the concluding session on Day 1 at NILF 2011! Anand, in somewhat unfamiliar territory, came with a well prepared speech- while he may not have displayed oratorical brilliance, the content of his talk was really interesting.
To draw a parallel between competitive strategy in business and the game of chess, he explained his preparation for two important matches he had played and won- one with Kramnik and the other with Topolov. Here is what I took out of the session:
1. Each competitor is different- so, for every new “game” plan ahead, and plan differently
Kramnik and Topolov are different kinds of players- one vertical and the latter horizontal. Hence, preparation for the games, months in advance, which included an analysis of the opponent’s strengths, was very different. Businesses likewise, need to anticipate competition behaviour and plan for surprises and to surprise them.
2. Each competitive face-off is different – though he prepared with equal intensity for both games, the one with Kramnik played out very differently than the one with Toplov. With Kramnik, by using surprise as an element, he got a near unbeatable lead and held on to it. Whereas, with Topolov, it was up and down till the very end, and the 12th game was a decider- thus he really had to hold his nerve to win the match. We come across similar situations often times in business oftentimes, when we go prepared for a certain response but end up dealing with something entirely different. The ability of your business to adapt, take risks and be resilient is key to emerging successful in that round!
3. Failure teaches you more than success – Anand referred to the time after winning the world championship for the first time in 2000 when he went through a major slump in form. What he did to recover taught him more than what his many successes had. Companies would do well to analyse losses and see what they can learn from it. In my experience, post-bid win-loss analyses is one of the most under-leveraged business tools.
4. Preparation is the key- Reaching the top is one thing, staying there is another, they say. Listening to Anand, it was evident that diligent preparation held the key to his sustained reign at the top. Similarly, for companies in the IT industry, especially those that have had a good run so far, keeping at it, staying focused, and learning not to underestimate the competition would be the mantras for continued success.