Novice chess players, says chess aficionado and versatile businessman Bob Rice, look at a chessboard and see a confrontational array of kings, queens, bishops, rooks, knights and pawns — but grandmasters see something else there.
In his thought-provoking, chess-themed book on business strategizing, Rice asserts that beginning and intermediate players tend to focus on which pieces are positioned to take or be taken, but when grandmasters examine the board they look at the squares.
“Maybe there are pieces on them, maybe not, but they see the fight as one to control squares: lines of them in any direction (diagonals, files and ranks), color complexes (light or dark), or even … just one single square. The pieces are means of controlling space, not ends in themselves,” Rice writes.
He finds a corresponding pattern in the business world, noting that run-of-the-mill executives focus on pushing, attacking and defending products (pieces), whereas great executives endeavor to control markets (spaces).
Rice examines the falling and rising fortunes of two prominent companies Sony and Apple — to make his point.
Sony’s recent problems, he maintains, arise from the internal competition among development teams that have become caught up in an invention contest to deliver new designs and features to win the approval of their marketing and financial experts. Rice says the company, which used to see market squares, now emphasizes product pieces.
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