In the summer of 1998, the world of chess was changed. Battles between chess grandmasters and computers ten years earlier were dominated by human intellect and intuition. Then in 1997, the $10 million supercomputer “Deep Blue” soundly defeated Gary Kasporov. Then by sheer mathematical brute force, computers became better at chess than humans. But something changed in the summer of 1998 when a grandmaster’s match allowed players to play alongside a computer. Kasparov called this style of play “Advanced Chess.” Then in 2005, there was an entire online chess event that allowed players to combine their talents with a computer. Here is Gary Kasparov’s recap of the event (excerpted from an article in the New York Times):
The surprise came at the conclusion of the event. The winner was revealed to be not a grandmaster with a state-of-the-art PC but a pair of amateur American chess players using three computers at the same time. Their skill at manipulating and “coaching” their computers to look very deeply into positions effectively counteracted the superior chess understanding of their grandmaster opponents and the greater computational power of other participants. Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process.”
I am not a chess player. I had visions of being part of the chess team in high school, but other than attending a few practices, I never played a timed match. Kasparov’s recap of the chess event holds a key for leaders about the value and importance of process.
“Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process.”
Processes matter. A bigger budget, a new set of technological tools, a brand new kid’s space, or a fancy playground – these are the physical mechanisms of our ministry. Having them is helpful, but not necessary to power spiritual growth. Volunteer Processes turns individuals into something that even the best individuals cannot accomplish on their own – and a better result than any machine could devise.
• What does your volunteer process look like?
• How do you empower volunteers to accomplish more together?
• What sense of team do you create for your volunteers?