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The Infinite Game Paperback – 15 October 2020
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Simon Sinek is the bestselling author of Start With Why, Leaders Eat Last and Together Is Better which have helped organisations around the world inspire their people to reach new heights.
His Ted Talk based on Start With Why is the third most popular video on TED.com, with more than 44 million views and his brilliant video interview on “the millennial question” has been watched more than 150 million times.
Are you playing the Infinite Game?
In The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek uses game theory to explore how great businesses achieve long-lasting success.
In life there are finite and infinite games. Finite games have set rules, players and a start and finish line. Infinite games are games in which the rules and parameters can change every minute, with no finish line in sight. As Simon explains, business, and so many other areas of life, are infinite games. When players look only for wins in the short term - be it to exit strategies, austere spending targets or arbitrary performance metrics, the player inevitably loses.
With this graspable yet overarching observation, Simon disassembles some of the most famous successes and failures in business, conflict and politics of the last 100 years. He outlines how the only way to build truly long-term value, enduring growth and dedicated, motivated people, is by playing with an infinite mindset - by playing The Infinite Game.
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The 5 essentials practices for adopting the infinite mindset: 1) Advance a Just Cause: 2) Building Trusting Teams; 3) Study your Worthy Rivals; 4) Prepare for Existential Flexibility; 5) Demonstrate the Courage to Lead. I find each of the 5 pillars above offers valuable lessons with specific examples about companies and leaders. It's a good read in my opinion.
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Here is the basic concept: There are two types of games, the finite game and the infinite game. The finite game is easy to visualize; it's what takes place when kids sit down to play a game of Monopoly. There are specific players, set rules, and (at least in theory) a definite endpoint. The infinite game is more complex. As I understand it, players can drift in and out, be known or unknown; rules are in a state of flux; and there is no clear endpoint. Most important of all, you can not “win” the infinite game. You can not “win” marriage. Or friendship. Or careers. Or even life itself.
The point of the infinite game is to look beyond the immediate finite game that can be won (who has the better product or higher sales this quarter) and instead focus on a long-term cause that can make the world a better place.
Well written, smooth read.
BOTTOM LINE: While it's largely a business book, it should be mandatory reading for leaders of every ilk. Readjusting focus would make the world a better place.
Rather than use an “either/or” choice, as in either you are infinite or you are not, the reality today is that generally businesses today are an “and” as in infinite and finite.
Jeff Bezos provides a good example. Other companies I work with use an “and” approach in serving all stakeholders interests.
Starting from this premise, Simon Sinek's main contribution is to setup a framework to help you keep playing (remember you cannot win an infinite game) at the infinite game of life, supported with very illuminating examples from both past and present companies and entrepreneurs.
The book is likely to resonate more with people like me who always understood life intuitively this way, but struggled to articulate this understanding in clear and concise terms. Those addicted to winning and scoring -people like Steve Ballmer- probably won't find the book as appealing.