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  March 3, 2011
It is Your Move...

 
Chess is a board game of skill played between two opponents.  It is one of the oldest parlor games known and was created about 1,500 years ago in India.  The game was then taken up by the Persians during their conquest of India in 600 A.D.  From there, the Persians taught the game to the Abrabian Moors who introduced it to Europeans near the eighth century, during the Moors occupation of Spain.

A chess board consists of 64 alternating colored squares in an 8 x 8 grid.  There are 16 pieces per side consisting of 6 different types of pieces (King (1) , Queen (1) , Bishop (2), Knight (2), Rook or Castle (2), Pawn (8)).  Each piece can be moved to a new square by the player, with the piece’s direction and total squares moved governed by the accepted rules.  Each player alternates turns, moving one piece at a time.

The ultimate objective of the game is to capture the opponent’s King (checkmate).  This is typically predicated upon first capturing your opponents other board pieces, creating and defending your own strategic positions, and cutting off escape routes for the King.

The winning chess player typically anticipates their opponent’s moves far in advance and creates a strategy to counteract any foreseeable situation.  They sometimes create strategies to intentionally lose a piece to their opponent to gain an advantage and ultimately win the game.  The best chess players are masters of responding and not reacting to situations placed before them.

The differentiation between reacting and responding is a subtle nuance but extremely important to winning chess.

A reaction is a voluntary or involuntary impulse to a certain stimulus.  When we react, we generally don’t think...we do.  A reaction is immediate.  A reaction is emotional.  A reation doesn’t take multiple alternatives into account but relies on an immediate and impulsive move.

In contrast, when we respond, we think first and then we do.  A response is deliberate.  A response is calculated.  A response is strategic.

Reacting is quick and easy...Responding takes time and thought and many times is very difficult.

Imagine that you’ve spent a lot of time trying to close sale.  You’ve spent countless hours to create and foster personal and professional relationships with the key decision makers at your customer.  You’ve painstakingly analyzed your customer’s needs and crafted tailored solutions to satisfy those needs.  You’ve researched competitive alternatives and put together key elements to demonstrate maximum investment returns for your customer. 

After months of work, you’re meeting with your customer to hopefully sign a long-term contract and they drop a bombshell on you. 

Your customer tells you that they’ve taken your ideas and given those ideas to your competitor, who in turn can provide that same solution for less cost.  Moreover, a 3-year contract has already been signed with the other supplier.  They feel horrible about doing this to you and apologize over and over but tell you that in the end that they needed the cost savings that the other supplier was willing to offer in order to stay competitive in their own market.

Now at that moment...do you react?...or do you respond?

If you decide to react...

...will you show anger toward the customer?
...will you use profanity?
...will you disparage your competitor or customer to others?
...will you threaten legal action?
...will you stop selling other items to your customer because they can’t be trusted anymore?
...will you take out anger on your co-workers and/or subordinates?...

Or...

If you decide to respond...

...will you ask more questions about the terms of the deal to see if at least part of it can be salvaged in some way?
...will you use their feelings of guilt to award you some other business (perhaps even more profitable business)?
...will you use the situation as a learning experience for yourself and your team?
...will you contact the competitor to see if they need anything from you to fulfill the contract (since the concept was yours to begin with, it’s quite possible that they have no idea how to make it work and will need your consulting assistance - billable hours of course)?
...will you start working with your customer on their next generation project (this time perhaps with some contractual obligations on the front end of the work)?

It’s hard not to react to adverse situations.  After all...we are all human and we all have emotions.

In the academy award winning movie, The Godfather (Part I), the Corleone brothers, together discussed ways to respond to an assassination attempt on their father.  The youngest brother, Michael tells the others that he would avenge their father by killing those responsible for the plot.  The oldest brother, Sonny, tells Michael that he’s reacting and making this personal.  Michael responds to his brother by saying "It’s not personal, Sonny...it’s strictly business".

Michael understood that this wasn’t about revenge...it was about making lemonade out of lemons...or in this case...dead men from live men...and in doing so, showing the other families that the Corleones were still in a position of strength with or without their father.

The next time something adverse happens to you...personally or professionally...will you do something without thinking and simply react?...or will you pause for a moment, take a deep breath, think about the situation at hand, formulate a plan and respond?

It’s your move....

Thank you for supporting OptiFuse, where we try to respond to and not react to all of our customers’ needs
.

 

Jim Kalb
President
OptiFuse
jimk@optifuse.com


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