Checkmate – The Reality of Strategy

Have you ever felt significantly ahead of your competition? Maybe you were headed in the right direction and thought nothing could stop you. Perhaps you were so focused on the success and control you were enjoying, only to be crushed by the competition unexpectedly.

The Example

As I was playing a game of Chess (the ultimate game of strategy) with my wife a few nights ago, I was extremely confident that I was going to win. In fact, I would have bet money on it. My placement was incredible. My offensive strategy was perfect. I was controlling the center of the board and getting myself into position to take a significant number of game pieces. I was just about ready to make my move for the King as I thought to myself, “This game is going to be so quick it’s almost shameful.” Two moves later, my king was in checkmate and the game was over.


I sat stunned as I looked upon the ear to ear smile on my wife’s face. What had happened? Looking back, it all came down to my overconfidence. I had been so focused on what I was doing that I didn’t see the simple shift in her strategy. It seemed to be so predictable.

Environmental Scanning

Whether we are playing the game of Chess or trying to win in a work setting, it is easy to become comfortable, confident, and focused on our own winning strategy. However we need to constantly remind ourselves to lift our heads up and look around. It is so critically important to look at what is going on outside our perceived bubble. Environmental Scanning is about gathering information and is a great way to”look up.”. It is all about evaluating what your present competition is doing, as well as considering the what and why of any emerging threats who may be quickly moving into positions of competition. Environmental scanning is about looking at your customers and their needs. Will their needs or wants change over time? Maybe the life cycle of your product or services will change over the next five year. What is causing this shift and can we exploit it to our advantage?

Lesson Learned

Over the past week, I have been thinking about my loss at chess. Not because I’m a poor player or poor loser, but because it was so swift, unexpected, and impacting. It gave me a reminder that we all need to look at our position from different angles at times, changing our perspectives when needed. We need to ask ourselves the strategic question, “If I were the opposing competition and wanted to exploit or take advantage of the current situation, where would I make my move?” The lessons learned: don’t be too overconfident no matter how experienced you think you might be. And, if you suffer a loss, learn from it and don’t lose sight of the future.

Related Services:

About the Author

Chris Stowell

Christopher Stowell is currently serving as CMOE’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing where he works with multi-national organization to develop their people. His special interests lie in coaching teamwork, strategy, e-learning, and assessment design, and delivery. Chris has a special talent in helping companies assess their organizational effectiveness and identifying key issues and opportunities in order to advance their performance and achieve long term results. Additionally, he has extensive experience in designing, coordinating, and facilitating customized adventure based experiential training events for high performance teams.