The Queen's Gambit

Published 12/08/2020
 
 
 
 
“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought”
Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, winner of the 1937 Nobel Prize in Medicine
 
 
The Queen’s Gambit, based on a 1983 novel by Walter Tevis, is a new miniseries on Netflix that has been extremely popular and has even created a bit of a resurgence in people’s interest in the game of chess. Anyone who has played the game knows that it is all about strategy and planning ahead. The more moves you can foresee, for yourself and your opponent, the better you position yourself to eventually capture your opponent’s queen and win the match.
 
I have tried to play chess and have found that I am really not very good at it. In fact, I’m pretty bad. I find that I can only predict a couple of moves ahead and even then, my opponent frequently makes a move I didn’t see coming. I realize that my poor performances are often due to impatience as well as lacking a truly analytical mind-set.
 
Planning ahead, strategically, and making the right decisions is the key to winning at chess and is also required for winning at business.
 
With 2020 soon to be a blighted black patch of a dumpster fire in our rear-view mirrors, it’s time to start putting the chess pieces on the board for 2021. It’s time to start visualizing what we want our 2021 to look like. It’s time to start thinking.
 
In Psychology Today, Charles Fernyhough defines thinking as being conscious and active – a cognitive process that can make new connections and create meaning.
 
In Mental Models, `Peter Hollins details two distinct and very different ways of thinking. One is “first-order thinking”, where we focus exclusively on making a decision without considering the long-range ramifications and how this will look in the future. He also describes this as “first-domino thinking”. I like this analogy because I picture playing with just two dominoes. The result is absolute and totally predictable.
 
Mr. Hollins then urges his readers to progress to “second-order thinking”. This goes beyond the simple immediate one cause, one effect of first-order thinking. When you look at a problem, or a decision you need to make using second-order thinking, you’ve put all the dominoes in play. You’ve started the process of trying to predict the future and extrapolating a plethora of possible consequences.
 
Like playing chess, second-order thinking is hard. However, to plan successfully for your business, it’s a critical skill to cultivate. It permits you to think more clearly than your competition and allows you to project and foresee happenings on a deeper, futuristic level.
 
To develop second-order thinking skills, Howard Marks, American investor and writer encourages us to use these four questions as a guide.
1.    How broadly will this decision affect things in the future?
2.    What result do I think will happen and what will that outcome look like?
3.    What is the probability my assessment is correct and that I will succeed or am making the right decision? And finally,
4.    What does everybody else think?
 
Obviously, each of the four questions will lead to additional questions and considerations as to which domino could be impacted and what, in turn will happen because of it.
 
As you fall deeper down this rabbit hole of second-order thinking, it becomes apparent why too many business-people avoid it. It’s hard and it can be confusing. That’s why most of your competition probably doesn’t do it.
 
To get you started on your journey to better thinking, I would recommend starting with “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daneil Kahneman, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell, and “The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking” by Edward Burger and Michael Starbird.
 
Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, winner of the 1937 Nobel Prize in Medicine, said “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought”.
 
Think about that for a moment.