Review – The Infinite Game

The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek

Famous for Start with WHY, Sinek has a new book out.  The Infinite Game compares two different ways of thinking:  The Finite Game where we play for victory.  Or the Infinite Game where we play for fulfillment.

Finite Leaders:

For far too long, he says, we have been playing to win.  Finite leaders he says, have an unbalanced focus on near term results. That creates winners, losers and … the decline of trust, cooperation and innovation.

Infinite Leaders:

Purpose is the focus of Infinite Leaders. They aim for Fulfillment which, keeps going, without us, and inspires others to join.  Leaders with an infinite mindset develop five essentials:  Just Cause, Trusting Teams, Worthy Rivals, Existential Flexibility and Courage to Lead.

Just Cause

is inspiring, affirmative and service-oriented. It is not, he says, a moonshot, about growth, being the best or even social responsibility.  CVS, a large drug store chain, for example aims to help people on their path to better health.  Which they did by deciding to no longer sell smoking products. To make courageous decisions like that, he advocates for a Chief Vision Officer … one who looks ‘up and out’ to see potential in people, the company and the community.  Traditional CEOs and CFOs focus ‘in and down’ on the bottom line.

Trusting Teams

is Sinek’s second essential.  Navy Seals need both high performance (finite) and trust (infinite).  When given a choice between trust and performance they most often opt for the trusting band of brothers that will work together for the common good rather than the high performing individualist.  Without that trust, we fall back on structure, rules and ethical standards falter as in the case of Wells Fargo.

Worthy Rivals

help us refine our infinite purpose.  Apple welcomed IBM into the personal computer market as a worthy rival.  IBM inspired Apple to get clearer about who they were, what they did and how they could get better.

Existential Flexibility

is the ability to make major changes in support of your infinite Just Cause.  Disney sold his studio and leveraged all that he owned to create his dream for Disneyland … the happiest place on earth.  In contrast, Kodak, failed to go forward with digital photography because it would cut into their shorter term film sales.

Courage to Lead

is the culmination of these practices.  It takes no courage to play the finite game.  You cut the budget, lay off staff.  You play it safe.  It takes courage to play the Infinite Game.  Courageous leaders are strong because they know they don’t have all the answers and they don’t have total control.  They do however have each other and a Just Cause to guide them.  Courageous leaders put people before numbers and focus on service.

None of us wants on our tombstone the last balance in your bank accounts. We want to be remembered for what we did for others.Simon Sinek, The Infinite Game

  • Reviewed by Larry Nyland
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Larry Nyland – Leadership Coach and Consultant.
Seattle Schools superintendent 2014-2018

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