In the following book summary, you’ll learn how to adopt an infinite mindset and perpetuate the infinite game of business.
“There is no such thing as ‘winning’ an infinite game. In an infinite game, the primary objective is to keep playing, to perpetuate the game.” – Simon Sinek
Life is an infinite game – the goal is not to win, the goal is to play as long as possible. Few people realize business is an infinite game as well – you can hit your profit target, but no one will stop the game to give you a trophy. Leaders who play the infinite game of business with a finite mindset struggle to stay in the game:
- Finite business leaders who lay people off to cut costs kill long-term innovation.
- A finite business manager who keeps a high-performing jerk on the team to hit short-term targets erodes the team’s morale and long-term performance.
If you approach business with a finite mindset, you’ll discover that chasing wins loses its thrill, and your drive to play gradually disappears. But when you adopt an infinite mindset, you sustain your drive, perform better, and love the people you work with. Approaching business with an infinite mindset allows you to build a business that thrives long after you leave the game. Here is how you play the game of business with an infinite mindset despite being pressured to play finite games:
Find your “Just Cause”
If you can clarify a “Just Cause” for your business instead of a generic, profit-focused mission statement filled with corporate jargon, you will find the courage to resist short-term pressure and make sacrifices in the hopes of attaining your vision. A “Just Cause” is an idealist vision of the future for the people you serve. Henry Ford’s original Just Cause was to provide safe and efficient transportation for everyone and open the highways to all mankind. CVS, the American Retail store and pharmacy, has a “Just Cause” to get people on the path to better health. Ford and CVS have had periods when they’ve forgotten their “Just Cause” and have gotten side-tracked by profit targets, coinciding with periods of decline. But when they renewed their commitment to their Cause, they strengthened their position in the game of business.
Here are a few questions to determine your “Just Cause”:
- What profound change can we make in our customers’ lives?
- What mission are we willing to make significant sacrifices for?
- What idealistic vision is so inspiring that other people will want to join our Cause?
Test your “Just Cause” by imagining you have a profitable business but discover a better way to achieve your long-term vision (either by developing a new product or using a new business model). Would you be willing to overhaul your business and give up significant short- term profits to better achieve your long-term vision? If your “Just Cause” passes that test, repeat it yourself at the start of every workday (like the work kickoff mantra). Then, explain every decision in terms of how it helps your “Just Cause.” As long as you stay dedicated to your “Just Cause” and the people behind it, you’ll generate the money you need to stay in the game.
Find your worthy rival
Instead of trying to beat your rival and be the best (which is exhausting and a fool’s errand because multiple players can win in the infinite game of business), study your rivals so you can find better and better ways to fulfill your “Just Cause.” Ford chose Toyota as their worthy rival because Toyota helped Ford believe they could make quality cars with less input costs.
A worthy rival not only pushes you to be better, but it can also help you clarify your “Just Cause.” In the 80s, Apple used IBM as a foil to help tell the world that Apple was for misfits and innovators. If IBM empowered corporations, Apple empowered the individual.
List at least five competitors who can push you to be better. Then journal on the question: “Who on this list can strengthen my Cause and improve my process the most? And how might they do that?”
Rethink the rules
The rules of an infinite game are in constant flux. Unlike finite games like soccer or chess, where competitors can take comfort in the rules never changing, infinite games keep all the participants on edge. You are most likely to fall out of an infinite game when you get too comfortable playing with a set of rules. Blockbuster got comfortable with the rules of the game they were dominating: customers come into a brick-and-mortar store, rent movies, and pay their late fees. But then an infinite-minded player entered the game – Netflix. Netflix said those rules were nonsense and came up with their own rules: customers don’t leave their houses to rent movies, and they never have to pay late fees. Blockbuster was slow to react to these new rules and went from a dominant player to a player forced to leave the game. Netflix continues to thrive in the infinite game because they continue to change the rules to better advance their Cause to entertain people.
Remember: in the infinite game of business, the rules will change, but you don’t have to wait for them to change – you can redefine the game’s rules at any time.
The book is based on the idea that there are two types of games in life: finite and infinite. Finite games have clear rules, players, objectives, and outcomes. Infinite games have no fixed rules, players, objectives, or outcomes. The players can change, the rules can change, and the game can go on indefinitely. Examples of finite games are chess, soccer, or war. Examples of infinite games are business, politics, or life itself.
The book argues that many leaders and organizations operate with a finite mindset in an infinite game. They focus on winning, beating the competition, and maximizing short-term profits. They measure their success by arbitrary metrics and benchmarks. They often resort to unethical or unsustainable practices to gain an advantage. They fail to see the bigger picture and the long-term consequences of their actions.
The book proposes that leaders and organizations should adopt an infinite mindset in an infinite game. They should focus on advancing a just cause, building trusting teams, learning from worthy rivals, having existential flexibility, and demonstrating the courage to lead. They should measure their success by the impact they make on the world and the legacy they leave behind. They should strive to improve themselves and their game continuously.
The book provides examples of leaders and organizations that have either a finite or an infinite mindset, and how that affects their performance and results. The book also offers practical advice and tools to help leaders and organizations develop an infinite mindset and play the infinite game.
The book is a thought-provoking and inspiring read that challenges the conventional wisdom and practices of leadership and business. The book builds on the author’s previous works, such as Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last, and expands on the concept of the infinite game introduced by James Carse in his book Finite and Infinite Games. The book draws from various sources of research, history, psychology, philosophy, and personal experience to support its arguments and recommendations.
The book is not a typical business or leadership book that offers a formula or a blueprint for success. Rather, it is a vision and a philosophy that invites the reader to rethink their assumptions, values, and goals. The book does not claim to have all the answers, but rather to ask the right questions. The book does not promise easy solutions, but rather to challenge the status quo.
The book is also a well-written and engaging book that uses stories, anecdotes, metaphors, and diagrams to illustrate its points and concepts. The book is easy to read and understand, yet profound and insightful. The book is a pleasure to read and reflect on.
Overall, the book is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to be a better leader and make a positive difference in the world. It offers a compelling and convincing case for playing the infinite game with an infinite mindset.