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Overview of "The Infinite Game" by Simon Sinek

How Simon Sinek's latest business concept The Infinite Game builds stronger organisations

Simon Sinek was inspired to write The Infinite Game after reading a 1986 book by Professor James P. Carse "Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility."

He concluded:

  • business is not a finite game with a winner and loser.
  • business is an infinite game - and should be played that way.

Ahead of his groundbreaking 2-part virtual event Simon Sinek - The Infinite Game, the speaker and author explains why business is an infinite game:

  • New players can join the game at any time;
  • All the players determine their own strategies and tactics;
  • There are no fixed rules to which everyone has agreed (other than the law);
  • There is no predetermined beginning, middle or end;
  • The game of business has no finish line.

However, his research discovered that leaders who embraced the qualities of an infinite mindset could do better in their business by increasing trust, cooperation and the capacity for innovation. 

simon-sinek-infinite-mindset-graphic

BENEFITS OF AN 'INFINITE MINDSET' 

Simon Sinek says the game of business lives on beyond individual players.

So leaders playing this infinite game try to leave their organisations in better shape than they found them.

Here's how:

  1. Just Cause - They have a specific vision. It builds on the concept of Start with Why;  
  2. Trusting Teams - They create an environment in which people can work at their natural best;
  3. Worthy Rivals - They respect competitors as people and companies to learn from; 
  4. Existential Flexibility - They change strategy if it advances their vision, even if it means short term pain; 
  5. Courage to Lead - They take steps to advance the Cause because they actually believe in it.

See also: What Makes a Good Leader in 2020 - The Definitive Guide

STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO THE 5 ELEMENTS OF AN INFINITE MINDSET

Just Cause

  • A Just Cause is a specific vision of a future state that does not yet exist; a future state so appealing that people are willing to make sacrifices in order to help advance toward that vision.
  • A true Just Cause is deeply personal to those who hear it, and it must be deeply personal to those who espouse it.
  • A clear Cause is what ignites our passions.
  • Infinite-minded leaders actively seek out employees, customers and investors who share a passion for the Just Cause.
  • Without a Just Cause to guide them, finite-mindedness starts to creep in.
  • Where a finite-minded leader sees fast growth as the goal, an infinite-minded leader views growth as an adjustable variable.
  • How we treat people is how they treat us.

Trusting Teams

  • There is a difference between a group of people who work together and a group of people who trust each other.
  • For the feeling of trust to develop, we have to feel safe expressing ourselves first. We have to feel safe being vulnerable.
  • Without Trusting Teams, all the cracks in an organisation are hidden or ignored. Only when a team member proves uncoachable - is resistant to feedback and takes no responsibility for how they show up at work - should we seriously consider removing them from the team.
  • It's the leader's responsibility to take the first risk, to build a Circle of Safety (Leaders Eat Last - Simon Sinek) .
  • People will trust their leaders when their leaders do the things that make them feel psychologically safe.
  • This means giving them discretion in how they do the jobs they've been trained to do.
  • Leaders are not responsible for the results, leaders are responsible for the people who are responsible for the results.

Worthy Rival

  • A Worthy Rival is another player in the game worthy of comparison.
  • We don't need to admire everything about them, agree with them, or even like them.
  • We simply acknowledge that they have strengths and abilities from which we could learn a thing or two.
  • Traditional competitionforces us to take on an attitude of winning. A Worthy Rival inspires us to improvement.
  • An infinite mindset embraces abundance whereas a finite mindset operates with a scarcity mentality.
  • Competitors compete for customers. Rivals look for followers.

Existential Flexibility

  • Existential Flexibility is seeing a better way to advance your Just Cause and leaping at it.
  • If it advances the Cause, it's okay to disrupt the existing business model.
  • Where a finite-minded player fears things that are new or disruptive, the infinite-minded player revels in them.
  • An Existential Flex doesn't happen at the founding of a company, it happens when the company is fully formed and functioning.
  • It recreates that passion for something new when the company is already enjoying success.

Courage to Lead

  • The Courage to Lead is a willingness to take risks for the good of an unknown future.
  • It's our willingness to completely change our perception of how the world works. It's the courage to embrace an alternative definition of business**.
  • It takes the Courage to Lead to operate to a standard that is higher than the law - to a standard of ethics.
  • Such decisions may indeed cost money or the leader's job in the short term.
  • The whole purpose of having a statement of Cause or purpose is that the leaders of the organisation actually believe it.
  • A Cause can only advance if they do the things that help advance it.

**The definition of the Responsiblity of Business must:

  1. Advance a purpose: Offer people a sense of belonging, and a feeling that their lives and their work have value beyond the physical work
  2. Protect people: Operate our companies in a way that protects the people who work for us, the people who buy from us and the environments in which we live and work.
  3. Generate profit: Money is fuel for a business to remain viable so that it may continue to advance the first two priorities.

DISRUPTION AND THE INFINITE-MINDED PLAYER

Disruption is not disruptive to the infinite-minded player, according to Sinek.

  • They look for ways to do something new, not ways to react to the new
  • They focus on a larger vision, instead of fixating on other companies
  • They try to outdo themselves, not competitors
  • They use finite goals as markers of progress towards their vision
  • They build a company that embraces surprises and adapts with them

He told The Growth Faculty in an interview that he wrote The Infinite Game after some leaders accused him of not understanding how business worked, and of being that crazy idealist. 

“When I discovered this concept of finite and infinite games, I realised that I wasn’t the one who didn’t understand how business works, they are the ones who don’t understand how business works.”   

Sinek backs this up by saying many employees go to work feeling uncomfortable. 

"[But] we see these people who make more money than us,...who have much more power than us, and we sort of listen to them. And, so we keep quiet, and we just keep having that uncomfortable feeling.”  

Where Simon Sinek and Brené Brown agree is that employees want to feel safe at work. 

  • An infinite-minded leader allows them to express their vulnerabilities, fears, anxieties, and insecurities without fear of judgement.
  • An infinite-minded leader ensures they don't show up every day at work feeling the need to lie, hide, or fake who they are or what they know.

Simon's concept for business is highly relevant in today's unpredictable climate. He says infinite-minded players revel in things that are new or disruptive.

"It is an infinite-minded player's appreciation for the unpredictable that allows them to make [strategic course] changes." - Simon Sinek


Tickets available to Simon Sinek -The Infinite Game

The Growth Faculty is proud to present New York Times best-selling author, TED Talk sensation and "unshakable optimist", Simon Sinek in a powerful and exclusive two-part live virtual event this November, 2020.


As well, The Growth Faculty has this year launched virtual masterclasses - the Time For Transformation series; especially designed for business leaders. We make learning and development easy and inexpensive by bringing your team the world's renowned thought leader. Ensure your team are trained to pivot, adapt and innovate in these unprecedented times. See who's up next.

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