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Kasparov, Eisner talk about achieving success through failure

Top executives at the World Business Forum say that failure is a given, but it's also necessary for eventual success.

What do a world renowned chess champion and a Mickey Mouse-loving entertainment executive have in common?

They both believe that successful entrepreneurs must put fears of failure aside in order to achieve their goals.

On Thursday, chess champion, political activist and Russian presidential candidate Garry Kasparov and the former Walt Disney CEO and chairman Michael Eisner presented their views in front of a packed house at the World Business Forum at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Kasparov, who in 1984 became the youngest chess champion in the world at age 22, said the key to success is not being afraid to make pre-emptive and aggressive attacks on your opponent. He emphasized what he called the "attackers advantage," in which the opponent with control must maintain control by continually striking back.

He cited Apple CEO Steve Jobs as an example. After the company saw great success with its iPod Mini product, Jobs stayed ahead of competitors by introducing , a more compact version of the popular music playing device.

"Steve Jobs didn?t have to go to the United Nations for permission for a pre-emptive strike," Kasparov quipped. "He just did it. In business every attack should be pre-emptive."

But being aggressive also means learning that you often fail.


"The 'attacker's advantage' only comes to those who aren't afraid to make mistakes," he said. "We all suffer from self-doubt, even me. I've lost many times in my life, and I still agonize over each one. Failure is inevitable. You just can't be too content with it and must work harder the next time to get it right."

The sentiment was echoed by Eisner, who was head of Walt Disney for 21 years. He said that companies should not punish failure. Instead, they should embrace it and learn from mistakes. He described how he and his executives often sat around during what they called Gong Show sessions where they would toss out absurd ideas and concepts. The worst ideas were "gonged".

Out of these brainstorming sessions, Eisner said occasionally new and creative ideas sometimes blossomed. He also emphasized the importance of embracing the inevitability of failure in the new era of the Internet, where technology and access to worldwide communications is changing entire industries.

Eisner, who was forced out of Disney in 2005, is involved with a number of Internet entertainment start-ups through his investment firm, Torante Company. The company has launched the , which has had some success with its online series Prom Queen.

"We had a tolerance for failure at Disney, a so-called old-media company," he said. "But I think this tolerance has an even more vital role in Internet companies that are having such a wide-scale impact on entertainment today."