A legend in the world of chess, Gary Kasparov came to international fame as the youngest world chess champion in history in 1985 at the age of 22, and spent 20 years as the world’s top ranked player and is regarded by many as the greatest chess player in history. Since retiring from chess in 2005, he has become an outspoken voice in the pro-democracy movement in Russia and a powerful advocate of education and human rights around the world.
Kasparov offers unique perspectives on effective strategic and creative thinking along with the state of strategic leadership today, and how to maintain peak mental performance under intense pressure. He said, “There is no universal recipe. It is very personal based on personal assessment. But when under threat, one must understand the old ways aren’t working and new ways are needed.” History will portray the United States as lacking strategic leadership in what is occurring in Russia and in other countries who are opposed to the values of the free world.
In general, Kasparov is calling for a return to what he calls “old ways,” which is why he advocates for a return to an explorer’s mentality. “We’ve stopped looking for new frontiers,” he said. Kasparov lamented that today’s creative minds are focused on making a better smartphone. “We have to show everyone that we are still leaders and not just consumers,” said Kasparov. Instead, he wants them focused on revitalizing the space program and alleviating world hunger. Also, he believes there are many necessary advances in education to be made. The classroom is not moving fast enough from the teachers as the disseminators of knowledge. “We still have the same classroom as in the 19th century, and for the kids from under privileged class, the long break in the summer is unproductive. Drastic changes are needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
Kasparov does not believe one segment is responsible for the shift in what we consider innovation. It is more of a cultural shift he said. Simply looking at the science fiction genre shows the shift said Kasparov. Science fiction is no longer showing positive and utopian futuristic just societies based on scientific developments. Instead, it is magic and dystopias. Kasparov believes in the 1960s and 1970s energy was shifted from exploration to righting our social problems, and in the post Cold War era the focus moved to building better gadgets. “The only way to guarantee failure is to stand still,” said Kasparov, and he believes in terms of innovation we are standing still, too focused on gadgets and software at the expense of exploration, human intuition, and world leadership.
The political problems the world is facing will not be solved by better smartphones. The dictators and terrorists do not need these things. We are distracted from chasing advances which will actually help the world’s problems. Pursuing space exploration Kasparov said is something we must get back to. The periphery advances of getting people to Mars and back is where we can actually help the world.
“We have replaced the values of risk and innovation with the values of safety and incremental change,” said Kasparov. Economically, scientifically, and culturally we have turned into a culture of maintaining the status quo. Companies are more interested in protecting the existing patterns than in R&D to create revolutionary ideas. “Not taking risks is riskier today. The longer you postpone taking risks, the harder it gets,” said Kasparov. “Everything which is brand new is risky by definition.”
“I believe we can change our course and rediscover the path of innovation and risk,” said Kasparov, “We must. We have no other choice. We need to fight for the future.”
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