Innovate your business like Beth Harmon from The Queens Gambit

Innovate like chess players, try to be 2 steps ahead of your competition

When you read the value proposition of any company in the world right now, chances are high you’ll stumble upon the word ‘innovation’. If we were a betting agency we’d say odds are about 9 to 1. We’re not though. We are Bagaar and we say actions speak louder than numbers (or value propositions).

Like many people, we’ve been binging The Queens Gambit on Netflix – we said actions speak louder than numbers not that we never take time off for some quality entertainment.  While doing so, some of us figured there are interesting analogies to make between chess and innovation. Ones that might help some companies take notice that innovation really needs to constitute more than a catchy line. So here we go.

To get ahead in the innovation game we suggest 3 tips.

Innovation tip 1: mind the HiPPO and dare to move your queen asap.

Great chess players are amazing at thinking ahead. The same thing is true for great innovation managers. In a typical innovation project, you’ll always have to watch out for resistance along the way. Be especially aware of the HiPPO: the highest paid person’s opinion. That opinion, if negative, can become a big obstacle if you don’t think a few moves ahead.

Don’t stall and get that great idea (your queen) moving around as quickly as possible, even though it feels safer to hold on to it and perfect it first. That way you’ll create enough enthusiasm with enough people to dismantle a potentially nonconsenting HiPPO.

Now, it also happens that a HiPPO is simply justified. Therefore, make sure you think through the problem that you are trying to solve with your innovation idea.

Is there a real problem? 

If so, does the problem just affect you or is it a problem with a company-wide impact? Oh yes, by the way, sometimes the problem is not really a problem, but your idea could save or gain the company a lot of money.

As soon as you’re able to prove that we’d bet you your management will quickly start to see that not executing your idea is a problem. But again, we’re not a betting agency. Just so you know, at Bagaar we do give you the tools to build a real case with insights to convince management.

Is there an easy solution? 

Consider just going for that one then. Not everything has to be complicated. More often than one would expect, this is what comes out of the first workshop we do with clients, resulting in no further next steps. And that’s ok!

Innovation tip 2: dare to sacrifice your queen.

When analyzing or re-analyzing your problem at any point during the process, Questions and answers might start to look like the following:

Is there a real problem? Yes. Ok great, now how can you start fixing up things?

Is there an easy solution? No. Then try to break down the problem into smaller ones you might be able to solve easily.

Are you getting stuck? Maybe it’s your current solution that you need to break down…

Sometimes you and your company have already started investing in a solution, so it feels like there is no way back. And nobody likes failure. But Why? From our experience, it happens in any company and the best innovative solutions often come to existence thanks to the failure of an earlier one. Sometimes It takes one to get to one.

‘Hitting failure’ is just another way of saying ‘exploring possibilities to the fullest’. See that Post-It on your desk? It’s the result of a 3M scientist not developing the strong, tough adhesive solution everyone in the market was looking for at the time. What he finally came up with was the opposite but proved to be a legendary success. He sacrificed his queen and won the game, big time.

In technology, you often get promised a checkmate solution from the start. But they often end up only solving 60 to 90% of your problem, because it’s not future proof. That’s why we believe in building custom platforms at Bagaar. We calculate the risks with our client and innovate to solve 100%. Checkmate.

Innovation tip 3:  observe your opponent.

Never lose sight of your competitors, no matter how confident you are about your game. They too might be doing things right but in a different way.

In chess you see a lot of players copy moves from each other. That happens especially in the opening moments of the game. To get ahead of your competitors in the innovation game too, the first step is not to get behind. If copying (without breaking any rules of course) is what it takes to do so, you should.

But then, at some point, what you really want to achieve is flip the game and get them to follow you. At Bagaar we have workshops where we can teach you how to stay ahead and how to take innovation into your own hands.


So, you want your business to become just as remarkable as Beth Harmon in The Queens Gambit?

Contact us for a little game and we’ll start moving some ideas around together.


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