The Infinite Game: Essential Mindset for Creating Business

About this book

How do we win a game that has no end? The rules of an infinite game are changeable while infinite games have no defined endpoint. There are no winners or losers—only ahead and behind.

My thoughts

I could have learned the essential mindset for creating business:

  • Finite mind: To win someone
  • Infinite mind: To produce value

The above is the core statement of the author. To understand more clearly, take a look at below:

Despite the fact that companies are playing in a game that cannot be won, too many business leaders keep playing as if they can. They continue to make claims that they are the “best” or that they are “number one.” Such claims have become so commonplace that we rarely, if ever, stop to actually think about how ridiculous some of them are.

I can agree with that from my experience as an influencer who disseminates information for a long time.

  • When I had a finite mind → Small profit and Small result
  • When I had an infinite mind → Big profit and Big result

What makes Apple so valuable? It's an infinite mind:

Where a finite-minded player makes products they think they can sell to people, the infinite-minded player makes products that people want to buy.

Kodak had an infinite mind:

George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, was devoted to his vision of making photography easy and accessible to everyone. He also recognized that advancing his vision was intimately tied to the well-being of his people and the community in which they lived.

In 1912, Kodak was the first company to pay employees a dividend based on company performance and several years later issued what we now know as stock options. They also provided their employees with a generous benefits package, gave paid time off for sick leave (it was a new idea then) and subsidized tuitions for employees who took classes at local colleges.

Sweetgreen, an American fast casual restaurant chain that serves salads, has an infinite mind in their mission that makes the company stronger:

Their stated mission is “to inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food.” Real food, as Sweetgreen defines it, means ingredients from local sources that support local farms. Which is why their stores have different menus depending on which part of the country they are in.

» The Infinite Game (Simon Sinek)

My highlights

When we lead with a finite mindset in an infinite game, it leads to all kinds of problems, the most common of which include the decline of trust, cooperation and innovation. Leading with an infinite mindset in an infinite game, in contrast, really does move us in a better direction.

The game of business fits the very definition of an infinite game. We may not know all of the other players and new ones can join the game at any time. All the players determine their own strategies and tactics and there is no set of fixed rules to which everyone has agreed, other than the law (and even that can vary from country to country).

“Better,” in the Infinite Game, is better than “best.”

As Henry Ford said, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.”

In a finite game, the game ends when its time is up and the players live on to play another day (unless it was a duel, of course). In an infinite game, it’s the opposite. It is the game that lives on and it is the players whose time runs out. Because there is no such thing as winning or losing in an infinite game, the players simply drop out of the game when they run out of the will and resources to keep playing. In business we call this bankruptcy or sometimes merger or acquisition.

At the Microsoft event, the majority of the presenters devoted a good portion of their presentations to talking about how they were going to beat Apple. At the Apple event, 100 percent of the presenters spent 100 percent of their time talking about how Apple was trying to help teachers teach and help students learn. One group seemed obsessed with beating their competition. The other group seemed obsessed with advancing a cause.

For employees, this is what we mean when we say, “Hire for culture and you can always teach the skills later.” For customers and investors, this the root of love and loyalty for the organization itself.

The average life of a company in the 1950s, if you recall, was just over 60 years. Today it is less than 20 years. According to a 2017 study by Credit Suisse, disruptive technology is the reason for the steep decline in company life span. However, disruptive technologies are not a new phenomenon. The credit card, the microwave oven, Bubble Wrap, Velcro, transistor radio, television, computer hard disks, solar cells, optic fiber, plastic and the microchip were all introduced in the 1950s.

The constant abuse since the late 1970s has left us with a form of capitalism that is now, in fact, broken. It is a kind of bastardized capitalism that is organized to advance the interests of a few people who abuse the system for personal gain, which has done little to advance the true benefits of capitalism as a philosophy (as evidenced by anticapitalist and protectionist movements around the globe).

Indeed, the entire philosophy of shareholder primacy and Friedman’s definition of the purpose of business was promoted by investors themselves as a way to incentivize executives to prioritize and protect their finite interests above all else.

The Four Seasons in Las Vegas is a wonderful hotel. The reason it’s a wonderful hotel is not because of the fancy beds. Any hotel can buy fancy beds. The reason the Four Seasons is a wonderful hotel is because of the people who work there.

“Tell me specifically what the Four Seasons is doing that you would say to me that you love your job.” Again without skipping a beat, Noah replied, “Throughout the day, managers will walk past me and ask me how I’m doing, ask me if there is anything I need, anything they can do to help. Not just my manager... any manager. I also work for [another hotel],” he continued. He went on to explain that at his other job the managers walk past and try to catch people doing things wrong. At the other hotel, Noah lamented, “I keep my head below the radar. I just want to get through the day and get my paycheck. Only at the Four Seasons,” Noah said, “do I feel I can be myself.”

Especially in retail, which suffers from such high turnover rates, the common logic is, “Why invest in people who aren’t gonna stick around?” This is a one-dimensional and finite view of the way business works. Focusing on the money they can save by not investing in their people, too many finite-minded leaders overlook the additional costs they actually incur when they don’t.

» The Infinite Game (Simon Sinek)