The Infinite Game

I finished The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek.  Sinek shares that the business world is not a finite game, so business leaders need to have an infinite mindset.  Like in sports, in a finite game, there’s a start and finish, agreed-upon rules, and in the end, a winner.   This isn’t true for businesses.

Businesses should not be judged only on sales, profit, and share price.  Instead of focusing on just those factors, leaders should be building something that will endure for generations.  An example shared in the book is Microsoft’s original mission to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” This infinite game mindset changed under Steve Ballmer.  With Balmer at the helm, Microsoft was focused on beating Apple and its market share.  Remember Microsoft’s Zune?  No?  Exactly.

An excellent example of playing the infinite game is Victorinox.  Governments banned knives in carry-on luggage after 9/11.  Before 9/11, knives were 95% of the company’s sales.  Victorinox’s response was to go into new markets like travel gear and watches.  Today, knives are 35% of Victorinox’s revenue.

As the author explains, there are five parts of the infinite mindset:

  1. Advance a Just Cause:  Focus on the long-term, not the quarter.  Treat employees with respect. 
  2. Build Trusting Teams:  Think people first, profit second. 
  3. Study your Worthy Rivals:  As in sports, Worthy Rivals force us to improve. 
  4. Prepare for Existential Flexibility:  Be flexible on the approach to achieve the goal.
  5. Demonstrate the Courage to Lead:  Show commitment to the cause.  High-performing firms have a Visionary and an Implementer.