Is a Killer Instinct Necessary in Business and in Life?

Must you hate your opponent?

In one of my all time favorite movies, Searching for Bobby Fisher, the prodigy chess player Josh Waitzkin talks with his coach about an upcoming match against a highly touted player.

"You have to hate your opponent, Josh, they hate you," coach Bruce Pandolfini says.

"But I don’t hate him," Josh responds.

"You have to hate him. Bobby Fischer hated his opponents," the coach says.

At the end of the movie Josh ultimately wins the crucial match, but not before offering a draw to his opponent (which is rejected).

I recently met a business executive who gave up chess as a hobby because it was "too brutal" — the glorification of destroying your opponent and seeing the blood as pieces go down. His favorite chess games are when he "isn’t playing chess" but when he’s "dancing on the board."

The executive extends this metaphor to business: cooperation is the answer, he says. Winning is important, but most effective in the spirit of cooperation.

Is a "killer instinct" necessary in business? Must you hate your opponents? I have to say I’ve been struck by my friend Chris Sacca’s (Google) frequent tip of the hat to Yahoo on his blog, or Jeff Nolan’s (SAP) occasional nod to Salesforce.com.

Everyone wants to win and kick the competition’s ass, the question is how this spirit should manifest into entrepreneurial truisms. Thoughts?

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