Last updated: 10 new corporate plays, thanks to The Queen’s Gambit

10 new corporate plays, thanks to The Queen’s Gambit


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2020 has imposed changes that have worn patience and dampened spirits, but for me, the thing it hasn’t done is quash my ability to find inspiration in books and movies. Last night I finished The Queen’s Gambit, and it is an absolute gift for strategy and managing talent in a world that’s demanding we adapt.

Let’s explore teamwork

Alliances come in unexpected forms: Jolene and Beth were an odd pair, and yet, through the days, months, and years, their differences were what allowed them to learn from one another.

Creating work teams shouldn’t be about duplicating what exists – organizations need to make an effort to combine different talents, backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities.

A black teenager smokes a cigarette nexts to a redhead, there shoulders touch. They are friends.

We aren’t wired the same: Beth bucked stereotypes her whole life. She might have longed for the comfort of disappearing in the sameness of black and white saddle shoes, but she was fully at ease in desiring and accepting different things than her peers.

Considering co-workers, clients, and audiences, it’s important to remember that data, trends, and profiles cannot completely define us.

A young woman holds a trophy with the words, "I don't mind that."

Everybody needs a team: Chess has the appearance of being a solitary endeavor, yet what we learn in The Queen’s Gambit is that the masters layer the plays and approaches of those who have come before in order to strengthen their own game.

The many rivals whose paths Beth crossed became her team. We can’t allow competition to prevent us from learning and rallying around one another: Create a culture that allows wins for individuals and groups.

A group of young men gathered around a chess board offering help to a friend.

Recognize excellence: One of the delicious things about this series was the way it celebrated competence without erasing brokenness. Our tendency to demand perfection and compliance makes for an impossible bar.

Honor when people do great things, but remember that we are neither infallible nor disposable.

A blonde man looks to the left and the words, "You're the best."

The Queen’s Gambit: Lessons on strategy

Raw talent isn’t enough: Beth was gifted, but she became brilliant through study and persistence. As many offices are remote, it’s more important than ever to remember the value of mentoring and offering feedback.

An image of mana and child playing chess with the text: You Resign Now

Look beyond what’s in front of you: Beth had a mind for playing through different scenarios. When you open yourself to looking beyond the predictable, you create opportunities to reach new heights.

A young woman lies in her bed, above her there are chess pieces on the ceiling.

Doubt can be fuel: Beth had to find ways to hone her skills, and she also had to garner enough confidence to believe in herself.

Being uncertain can propel you to push harder – this isn’t to say that doubt should guide you – but there should be enough room in your perspective to wonder if there are ways to be better.

A woman sits in profile, the words, "I'm not good enough" are beneath her.

What we have to have can change: Beth took pills and drank, at one point going so far as to say that she couldn’t play without them.

This year we learned that what we thought was necessary, was in many cases, not.

Like a play-off rally cap, sometimes the things we cling to are just there to distract us from what’s ahead.

A teenage girl with red hair stands in a drug store.

Hating the competition isn’t required: Conflict adds drama and intrigue, but is it central to the game?

Not to Beth; in fact, her interest in who she was playing and how they were thinking depended on her having an open mind. Pursue wins, but not at the expense of missing the human being on the other side of the table.

A black and white photo of a man and a woman sitting in different rows of a dark theater.

No one stays on top forever: Each of the characters – from the tournament players to the extras in Russia – all had a healthy appreciation for the game. They celebrated moves, honored traditions, and had respect for those who demonstrated focus and talent.

One person winning never eliminated the other person’s talent.
The goal should never be to stay number one, but to always continue to improve.

Run your own clock

The Queen’s Gambit was a celebration of tradition, dysfunction, and redemption.

There was expansive silence, evocative transitions from stark black and white frames to bold wallpapers and costumes, and choreography of focus that allowed the viewer to engage and retreat.

A woman sits at a chess table with a clock.

The human spirit is capable of so much if we dare to resist the script and instead write our own story.

There has never been a more opportune time to rewrite your playbook – after all, as James Mason wrote, “every pawn is a potential queen.”

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