What chess can teach us about implementing Microsoft Dynamics NAV (Navision)
I assume that our family is like most American families. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas we do what I call the Holiday swap and switch which side of the family we spend Thanksgiving with and then Christmas. A couple of years ago we went through some major family turmoil to adjust the rotation to align with the Texas v. Texas A&M Thanksgiving home game in Austin, TX but I digress.
This Thanksgiving was spent with my in-laws and one of their traditions is to play chess whenever we are not eating turkey or apple pie. My family did not grow up playing chess and I have been dutifully getting clobbered for the better part of the past decade when I visit my in-laws. I decided that this Thanksgiving was going to be different and armed with some new apps on my iPad that I used to practice, I actually beat my brother in-law twice and almost beat my father in-law. The loss to my father in-law was all the more painful because I was clearly winning until I had an inexplicable end game melt down.
What became painfully apparent to me was how little practice it took to end a decade of humiliation and enjoy my first successful holiday chess match. What was even more apparent was how I had been locked into a particular pattern of thinking which prevented me from enjoying success even though it was not that hard to achieve. I was convinced that until I could play like a Grand Master and had mastered the classical Sicilian defense that I probably was not prepared to successfully take on my in-laws who in my mind might as well have been Bobby Fischer's relatives.
Despite my limited success this past Thanksgiving I realized the journey had only begun. I discovered a book by Dan Heisman called The Improving Chess Thinker. In the book Heisman who has researched beginners to grand masters for years was able to determine that the biggest differentiator between levels was not the amount of knowledge someone possessed but the thought processes they employed. His research also made it clear that merely gaining chess knowledge didn't improve thought processes. For Heisman the bottom line is that we can improve our game through learning the thought processes of those that have achieved a higher level of success than we have.
Heisman's research has great application for what we do when we work with a company to implement Microsoft Dynamics NAV (Navision). Intuitively I have always felt that it was a benefit to have a large and growing team with a diverse set of experiences but I'm not sure that I could articulate effectively why I felt that other than bigger must be better. However based on what I see in Heisman's research I see the same type of learning going on in our team. We are able to learn new patterns of thinking from fellow teammates who have had demonstrated successes which is separate and distinct from the amount of product knowledge each individual brings to bear.
So I am grateful this Thanksgiving Holiday not only for beating my brother in-law in chess but having the opportunity to work with a great team that challenges me to think differently every day.