Would it surprise you to learn that I like playing chess?
Probably not. I mean, I’m a nerdy English guy, and what’s more nerdy than chess? When I was growing up we had a grand total of 4 TV channels in England, and in 1993 one of those four channels presented live coverage of the World Chess Championship. This may sound dull, but our other options for live TV sporting events were darts, snooker and lawn bowls. (I’m not even joking.) Needless to say, I loved the chess coverage.
However, I recognize that for some people, watching other people play chess may not be particularly exciting. If that’s you, then I have good news, because last week I discovered the sport of chess boxing.
The general idea is this:
- Players alternate between playing chess and taking part in a boxing fight.
- They start by playing chess for a few minutes, then pause the game, do a round of boxing, then go back to chess.
- And repeat until either someone wins the game of chess, or someone gets knocked out.
It’s hard to explain – so why not take a look at a real match (don’t waste all day on this – I don’t want to get in trouble with your boss – you can just skip through to get the idea).
What can we learn from this?
As always, our exploration of this new “sport” has a purpose, and I think we can learn something from chess boxing that we can apply to the world of telecoms.
Good decisions require the right environment: It turns out that our brains don’t work as well if (a) we’re in a hurry, (b) we’re tired, and (c) we just got hit in the head a few times. About 22 minutes into the video, you see Dina (a Women’s Grandmaster at chess) miss the move that would have won her the chess game – something that surely would have been pretty obvious to a player that good under normal circumstances, but in this event, she missed it.
In the same way, for any of us doing complex technical work, we need to recognize those times when the work needs our full attention – when we need time, when we need quiet, when we need to avoid distractions, so we can give our very best efforts to solve a problem.
It’s hard to do multiple jobs at the same time: The whole idea of chess boxing is that it’s kind of crazy to be using all your intellect to play chess one minute, and then to be using all your physical strength to throw punches the next. This is a crazy thing to try to do – and that’s why it’s entertaining to watch people try.
We don’t have such extreme variety in our jobs, but I’m always amazed by all the different responsibilities a typical central office technician has – I’ve even written about this before – from transport networks to billing to switch translations to provisioning PBXs, it’s really hard to be an expert in so many different technologies at the same time.
We should all play to our strengths: In the Chess boxing video, it’s pretty clear that Andrea is a better boxer, but Dina is a better chess player. In the match they both try to avoid their weaker event (by playing slowly, or by dodging away from the boxing).
In the same way, we all have individual strengths and weaknesses – whether that’s skills we excel at, or particular topics where have a lot of knowledge. Most of us work as part of a team, and in order to get the best out of the team, we should all focus on those things we do best.
At Award Consulting, we do that internally – where each team member has particular types of work where we excel – but we also perform that function as an organization. As a company, our job is to be specialists in Metaswitch products – so that you can rely on us to be specialists in that area, while you focus on all your other responsibilities.
If you’d like to have an expert to call on, as part of your team, be sure to check out our support retainers.