If you’re highly confused by this question and what it could possibly have to do with business or leadership, I wouldn’t blame you. Interestingly enough however, game theory and business are a lot more connected than you might think. Thought leader, Simon Sinek, developed the concept of how finite and infinite games are related to business and leadership. But first, let’s define what exactly is mean by finite and infinite. In finite games there are winners and losers, distinct rules known to both sides, well-defined boundaries, and a prescribed amount of time at the end of which a winner is declared. Think baseball. In infinite games, on the other hand, the rules are constantly changing, competition comes and goes, there is no set end point, and there are no final winners or losers – instead, players are either ahead or behind. The goal of an infinite game is to outlast the competition.
The game of business and leadership is an infinite one, yet most business leaders treat it as a finite game. How many times have you heard your boss, or an executive of your company say they want the company to be the best in its industry or win over the competition? Yet there are no clear winners in business, as the game of business will go on indefinitely. The problem with this misconception is that many leaders govern as if they’re operating in a finite game. Finite thinking seeks to protect the status quo rather than incite innovation, and compels business leaders to prioritize meeting arbitrary benchmarks and quarterly goals, while losing sight of the importance of cultivating a company that can sustain itself in the long run.
So how can you shift your mindset from finite to infinite and start succeeding in the infinite game? There are a few key factors:
1. Just Cause
Although companies can’t “win” the game of business, they can certainly advance their just causes. A just cause is what drives you to get up and go to work, to stay with your company in the face of adversity. A just cause that’s supported by the employees allows a company to outlast competition.
2. Courageous Leadership
In order to hold the just cause above all else, courageous leadership is needed, especially when it comes to making sacrifices (revenue, leads, etc.) for the cause.
3. Vulnerable Team
Fostering a culture where it’s okay to make mistakes and ask for help is crucial in shifting your organization’s mindset from finite to infinite. Teams within your company need to feel safe enough to take necessary risks without fear of reprisal.
4. Worthy Adversary
Instead of looking at the competition as competition, start seeing them as respectable rivals. A competitor is someone you’re striving to beat, but a rival is someone whose strengths reveal to you your own weaknesses. In the end, your company or organization should be using its just cause, not a comparison to competitors, as a metric for success.
5. Open Playbook
Pursuing the just cause with a flexible strategy is vital for a company to sustain the infinite game rather than pursuing a variable cause with a fixed strategy. Even further, all members of the company or organization should be made aware of the strategies being implemented, so everyone can make decisions based on the plays in the playbook.
Don’t be a finite player in an infinite game, boss ladies! If you want to learn more about the infinite game concept, check out Simon Sinek explaining it in his own words!
Let us know your thoughts on this business and leadership philosophy by commenting below!