Book:  The Infinite Game

Author:  Simon Sinek

Purchase:  PrinteBookAudiobook

Citation:  Sinek, S. (2019). The infinite game. New York: Portfolio/Penguin.

Three Big Takeaways

  • 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. Unlike a finite game, there is no predetermined beginning, middle, or end to business. Although many of us agree to certain time frames for evaluating our own performance relative to that of other players, those time frames represent markers within the course of the game; none marks the end of the game itself. The game of business has no finish line. In finite games, there's a single, agreed-upon metric that separates the winner from the loser. In infinite games, there are multiple metrics, which is why we can never declare a winner. (pg. 5)

  • Finite-minded players do not like surprises and fear any kind of disruption. Things they cannot predict or cannot control could upset their plans and increase their chances of losing. The infinite-minded player, in contrast, expects surprises, even revels in them, and is prepared to be transformed by them. They embrace the freedom of play and are open to any possibility that keeps them in the game. Instead of looking for ways to react to what has already happened, they look for ways to do something new. An infinite perspective frees us from fixating on what others are doing, which allows us to focus on a larger vision. (pg. 11)

  • I used to work for a large advertising agency. After my first year at the company, leadership decided to implement time sheets. Unlike a law firm, where a lawyer may be billing their clients for the actual number of hours of work, this was a way for the company to keep track of...actually, no one really had any idea of the utility of the time sheets. It was just something we were told to do. I have to believe that the time sheets were implemented because something went wrong in accounting. In order to correct the issues in accounting, a new process was implemented across the company. This kind of solution is called "Lazy Leadership." When problems arise, performance lags, mistakes are made or unethical decisions are uncovered, Lazy Leadership chooses to put their efforts into building processes to fix the problems rather than building support for their people. (pg. 146)

Other Key Ideas

  • In the infinite game, the true value of an organization cannot be measured by success it has achieved based on a set of arbitrary metrics over arbitrary time frames. The true value of an organization is measured by the desire others have to contribute to that organization's ability to keep succeeding. While the finite-minded leader works to get something from their employees to meet arbitrary metrics, the infinite-minded leader works to ensure that their employees remain inspired to continue contributing with their effort. Players with an infinite mindset want to leave their organizations in better shape than they found them. (pg. 9)

  • The best managers know their job is to set an environment in which employees can naturally thrive. Leaders will work to create these environments when we train them how to prioritize their people over the results. And this is the true definition of what it means to lead. There is absolutely zero cost for a manager to take time to walk the halls and ask their people how they are doing... and actually care about the answers. When leadership prioritizes the will of their people before the resources they can produce, the people who work there want to give their jobs their all. (pg. 93)

  • There is a difference between a group of people who work together and a group of people who trust each other. In a group of people who simply work together, relationships are transactional, based on a mutual desire to get things done. When we work on a trusting team we feel safe to express vulnerability. We feel safe to raise our hands and admit we made a mistake, be honest about shortfalls in performance, take responsibility for our behavior, and ask for help. When we are not on a trusting team, we do not feel like we can express any vulnerability at work, we often feel forced to lie, hide, and fake to compensate. Without trusting teams, all the cracks in an organization are hidden or ignored. (Pg. 106)

  • When confronted with information about how others feel about them, leaders with low levels of character rarely agree or even want to listen. They think of themselves as trustworthy, it's everyone else who can't be trusted. They offer excuses instead of taking responsibility. And though they can feel that the rest of the team may not include them in things (probably convincing themselves that everyone is jealous of them), they fail to recognize that the only common factor in all these tense relationships is them. Even when told how the rest of the team feels about them, many competent performers with low character will double down on performance instead of trying to repair lost trust. After all, they have gotten this far...why change now? (pg. 113)

  • Only when a team member proves unapproachable - is resistant to feedback and takes no responsibility for how they show up at work - should we seriously consider removing them from the team. And at that point, should a leader decide to keep them, the leader is now responsible for the consequences. (pg. 113)

  • In weak cultures, people find safety in the rules. This is why we get bureaucrats. They believe a strict adherence to the rules provides them with job security. And in the process, they do damage to the trust inside and outside the organization. In strong cultures, people find safety in relationships. Strong relationships are the foundation of high-performing teams. (pg. 127)

  • The ability for any organization to build new leaders is very important. Therefore, one of the primary jobs for any leader is to make new leaders. Leaders are not responsible for the results, leaders are responsible for the people who are responsible for the results. And the best way to drive performance in an organization is to create an environment in which information can flow freely, mistakes can be highlighted and help can be offered and received. (pg. 128)

Copyright © 2019 by Dr. Jared Smith LLC.  Specializing in Leadership, Education, and Personal Growth.