Have you ever been to a boxing match? What were the the other spectators like? And if you haven’t been to a fight: What is your image of the people that go there? Especially those in the front rows?
If you are now thinking about pimps, criminals, friends of Don King or a combination of any of the above you pretty much hit the image. I have been to a heavy weight World Championship fight and the experience did not change my perception of the audience. Kind of frightening.
Now let’s switch the sport. Let’s talk about the complete opposite of boxing. What would that be? Maybe chess. What kind of people do you expect at a chess game? Nerds with kind of limited social skills wearing glasses and ugly clothes? (Sorry for hunting stereotypes again…)
I have also been to grandmaster matches in chess and when I was looking at the audience, words like “cool”, “funky” or “outgoing” did actually not come to my mind.
But what if you would combine both?
Take a second to think about it. And take the next second to think about what your first and immediate reaction or feeling was when you read this question. “Sounds totally bizarre to combine sports as converse as boxing and chess. How could you dare to do this? Completely unfeasible!”
What I just wanted to illustrate is one of the most common mistakes made in a creative process: Most people don’t try to explore the most uncommon ideas and combinations of thing, experiences and inspirations. The more unreckoned and unanticipated you proceed, the more you open up the space of possibilities you are in and the more likely it may lead you to completely new approaches. Never settle with the easy way.
That’s one thing boxing, chess and ideation have in common: If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not intense enough.
So could boxing and chess be combined? Oh yes, and it has already been done: The first “Chess Boxing World Championship” governed by the “World Chess Boxing Organisation” took place in 2003.
Chess Boxing consists of alternating round of chess and boxing. In the first four minutes of a fight the opponents play chess, followed by a three minute round of boxing. The third round is chess again and so on for a total of eleven rounds. You can either win the fight by winning the chess game (by check mate or by if the opponent exceeds the time limit) or the boxing bout (by knockout or judges decision). Whatever happens first will decide who won the Chess Boxing fight.
The interesting thing about it: It create a whole new market. At last year’s World Championships there were some 2000 spectators at ring side, and it’s neither the typical boxing fans nor the chess nerds that come to watch the fights: It’s hipsters and in-crowd, people that you could imagine working in an ad agency or as architects, a crowd that could also be found at techno clubs or modern art museums. Okay, the novelty factor may play a role in this, but any new product or service has to start with some early adopters.
By combining two sports that initially seemed like total antidotes, a new sport for a new audience has been built.
Now if you have the guts to combine two of your inspirations or even products or services that seem very different from each other, why shouldn’t you be able to create a great and surprising new product or service for a market that you have not been on or that even did not exist before. Let’s do some Business Chess Boxing. And don’t tell me it’s not a good match.