Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Spring 2005Kellogg School of Management
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Get Go-ing

by Deborah Leigh Wood

Strategic insights can show up in unusual places. For instance, there's the game of Go, which the Japanese, Chinese and Koreans have been playing and applying in business, politics and war for some 4,000 years.

In fact, Go is part of the curriculum in some business schools, says Troy Anderson '98, author of The Way of Go: 8 Ancient Strategy Secrets for Success in Business and Life (Free Press).

Referred to as the "game of geniuses," Go is like chess in that players move pieces around a board to take control of it, but Go aficionados use black and white stones and start with an empty board.

The goal of Go, and Anderson's book, is to make the best decisions in business and life. Anderson, an experienced Go player and teacher (he is one of five Americans to train at the Japanese Professional Go Academy), says many leaders in Asian business, politics and the military apply the game metaphorically to "maximize their time and resources, seize the initiative, adapt to change and compete in an established market."

Players control the board either by "brute force, analysis or understanding aesthetics and rhythms of the game," says Anderson, managing director of Knowledge Management and Interactive Applications at the Fannie Mae Foundation in Washington, D.C. "There isn't just one way to get strong at Go or succeed in business. At Kellogg, the better groups were the ones with a full complement of skills."

Philip Kotler, the S.C. Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at Kellogg, agrees: "Troy Anderson told me years ago of his plan to write a book on Go," he says. "I urged him to show the game's applications to business and marketing strategy. He succeeded admirably."

Anderson says Go can be played analytically to determine the intricacies of finance and accounting. "Or you can be a complete artist and get into it from an aesthetic point of view," he says.  

Anderson recalls getting hooked on this Zen-like "game of perfect information" in his junior year at Stanford University. He is one of approximately 27 million Go players worldwide and 400,000 in the United States. They're in good company: Famous Go players include Mao Tse-tung, Bill Gates and John F. Nash, the Nobel Prize-winning economist/mathematician credited with revolutionizing game theory.

Anderson says those who believe that "dominating an opponent" is always appropriate, might be surprised that The Way of Go demonstrates otherwise. "Sometimes the right strategy is to be passive and play your opponent's best move," he says.

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University