Posted by Amy Bybee on June 09, 2016
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Business Acumen

Minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master.

So goes one popular description about the game of chess. The phrase is short and simple—and right on the money—even though it sums up a test that often involves a protracted battle of wills and an astonishing level of complexity.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a grandmaster to benefit from the mental exercise of pitting pawns, rooks, knights, bishops, kings and queens against one another. In doing so, players draw on their own intuition and strategic knowledge, but also learn to read the behavior of others and adjust their own actions accordingly. In other words, becoming competitive depends on achieving a certain proficiency in chess acumen before you can get down to business.

“Next move.”

Not surprisingly, the same idea holds true for organizations looking to solidify competitive advantage across the board—only in place of a bold opening like “knight to king 4” comes business acumen training as part of any leadership development curriculum.


Some might counter that MBA-educated professionals already have business acumen, but not-so-ironically, what we often find is that many are unaware of how their own thoughts and behavior adversely impact their financial decision-making. They might know the game from an intellectual perspective, but that can be quite different from the instincts they fall back on under pressure.

“Boom, there goes the second bishop!”

At that point, accountability isn’t something that always comes naturally. Too often for comfort, what does happen is an extended game of finger-pointing and passing-the-buck down the line. Business acumen programs provide strong defenses against ego-driven miscalculations and self-inflicted errors in judgment, creating behavioral models which improve outcomes.

As with the game of chess, the rules of business acumen have formal components which are fairly basic. Yet, when emerging leaders internalize them to the point where problem-solving becomes second nature, they become innovative and powerful emissaries on behalf of their organizations.

You might say they become champions of change in their own right.

Check back with us and let us know your thoughts!

Topics: Learning Development, Business Acumen