The Infinite Game

One Sentence Summary

The adaptation of an infinite mindset will result in more innovative products and higher performing teams and will see their competitors not to be beaten, but to learn from them.

Two Key Takeaways

  1. Trusting teams will outperform "high performance" teams 9/10 times. Build trust first in an organization and results will follow
  2. Being able to adapt and shift into new technologies is a determining factor of a good leader. If the company crumbles under disruption, that was most likely a finite-minded leader

Chapter 1: Infinite and Finite Games

  • People don't build businesses to last generations - why? We need to start taking that approach with business plans.
  • In an Infinite organization, their success can't be measured by the success it has achieved based on arbitrary metrics over arbitrary time frames.
  • Finite minded organizations make products they think they can sell to people, infinite minded organizations make products people want to buy
  • A good measure of an infinite vs. finite organization is to look at how they embrace change. Are they afraid of being disrupted? Finite. Are they excited what the change will do with technology and their company? Infinite.
  • Finite minded leaders prioritize the urgent, instead of the important. They're too busy looking at what needs to be done now to meet their Q goals and never explore possibilities that innovate and disrupt. They're too busy playing catch-up to be the leaders.
  • Finite minded leader finds value in their career based on how well the company is operating. An Infinite Minded leader uses their career to enhance the long-term value of the company
Three Factors to Consider When Deciding How to Lead
  1. We don't get to choose whether a particular game is finite or infinite
  2. We do get to choose whether or not we want to join the game
  3. Should we choose to join the game, we can choose whether we want to play with a finite or an infinite mindset

  4. Consistency is much more important than intensity
  5. It's better to go to the gym for 25 minutes a day for three years, than to go to the gym for 2 hours every day for only 2 months.
To adopt an infinite mindset, one must follow five essential practices:
  1. Advance a Just Cause
  2. Build Trusting Teams
  3. Study Your Worthy Rivals
  4. Prepare for Existential Flexibility
  5. Demonstrate the Courage to lead

Chapter 2: Just Cause

  • Just Cause - A specific vision of the future that does not yet exist
  • A just cause defines where an organization beyond next quarters profits
A Just Cause must be:
  • For something - Affirmative and optimistic
  • ex. we are for growing the number of people who can provide for themselves and their families. Not "against" poverty

  • Inclusive - open to all those who would like to contribute
  • Service Oriented - for the primary benefit of others
  • There are two types of parties in a just cause - the contributors (the givers) and the beneficiaries (the receivers). The primary benefit of an organizations contributions must always go to people other than the contributors
  • Resilient - able to endure political, technological, and cultural change
  • Products and services are things that advance the just cause, they are not in themselves a just cause
  • Had Blockbuster saw themselves as a home entertainment company instead of a movie rental business, they might have invented Blockbuster
  • Idealistic - big, bold, and ultimately unachievable

  • Always write your cause down. Always. You'll be tempted to sway from it given the right opportunities.

Chapter 3: Cause. No Cause.

  • Moon shots are not a just cause
  • Being the best is not a just cause
  • Growth is not a just cause
  • CSR is not a just cause

Chapter 4: Keeper of the Cause

  • Companies that spend a lot of time looking for the right skillset when finding a new CEO are looking for the wrong thing. They should be looking for leaders who have the right mindset to keep the company aligned with the Just Cause
  • We should make a new job title, CVO - Chief Vision Officer. CVOs focus on up and out, CFOs and COOs focus on down and in

Chapter 5: The Responsibility of Business

  • Technology doesn't mean a company will fail. When people say 'technology killed company X', what they're really saying is 'The leader of that company failed to envision the future of their business as the world changed around them.'
  • Non-Ethical practices often times get morphed into ethical ones after it becomes frequent enough of an action, and people start to see it as no longer unethical

Chapter 6: Will and Resources

  • A leaders job is to set an environment for their employees to do their best work possible. Often times when we see a disgruntled teenager at a grocery store or a fast food chain, they're not lazy or rude, they just have a horrible manager.
  • Infinite-Minded leaders work hard to look beyond the financial pressures of the current day and put people before profit as much as possible.
  • Finite-minded organizations view employees as machines to get work done. Infinite-minded leaders see employees as human beings whose value cannot be calculated as if they were a piece of matter.

Chapter 7: Trusting Teams

  • Never assume trust. There is a huge difference between people who work together, and people who trust each other.
  • "Trust is the stacking and layering of small moments and reciprocal vulnerability over time. They [trust and vulnerability] grow together, and to betray one is to betray both." - Brené Brown
  • Denying the connection between feelings and performance is a finite-minded way of looking at leadership.
  • Promoting the highest performing team member can be the wrong move. If you ask a small team whom they trust the most, that person may not be the highest performer, but they will be the most caring who wants to help the team and see others succeed. That's the person whom you want leading the team.
  • If a team member is acting like a jerk, before firing them, see if they're coachable. You'll be amazed at how many people just don't know how to do the right things.
  • Trust starts with one person going first, usually the team leader.
  • Culture = Values + Behavior
  • The objective is to keep your will and resources strong while working to frustrate the will and exhaust the resources of the other players
  • Leaders are not responsible for the results. They are responsible for the people who are responsible for the results. Leaders need to create an environment where information can flow freely, mistakes can be highlighted, and help can be offered and received.
  • Prioritizing trust over performance always results in performance.

Chapter 8: Ethical Fading

  • A condition in culture that allows people to act in unethical ways in order to advance their own interest. It starts with a small ethical dilemma, and moved to bigger and bigger decisions until someone is really hurt by one's actions
  • It typically comes from self-deception. Some ways we deceive ourselves are:
  • The words we use
  • Blame the system, even though we're the ones who caused it
  • The slippery slope (starts with a small decision, gets bigger)
  • Lazy leaders build systems and processes to fix the problems in their organization than building support for their people
  • Ethical Fading - engaging in unethical behavior while believing that we're still acting in line with our own moral code or ethic
  • Unethical decisions come from making decisions that are based in the short term. How can we make money faster? Ethical decisions, therefore, are based on the right thing to do, no matter what

Chapter 9: Worthy Rival

  • Other players in the industry are not competitors to be beaten, they are worthy rivals who can help us become better players
  • Don't get wrapped up in 'Cause Blindness'. This is when you think of your cause so much you can't see its weaknesses, and you're against your rivals cause so much that you can't see their strength.
  • Just because an idea is innovative doesn't mean it will last. The culture of an innovative organization has to be as good, if not better than the technology.
  • When Amazon started selling books online, print publishers doubled down on the model they were using, instead of going online.
  • This just baffles me
  • What got you here won't get you there and knowing who your worthy rivals are is the best way to help you improve and adapt before it's too late.

Chapter 10: Existential Flexibility

  • Existential Flexibility - The capacity to initiate an extreme disruption to a business model or strategic course in order to more effectively advance a Just Cause.
  • A leader must be able to look down the future of the just cause, and flex their business model if they see disruption
  • It's always offensive. Flexibility cannot be confused with a defensive, last ditch effort to save a business after it has almost crashed.
  • If you don't blow your business model up, well, then somebody else will.

Chapter 11: The Courage to Lead

  • The willingness to take risks for the good of the unknown future
  • Finite thinkers do not appreciate that an investment in people will benefit the company, their product, and their investments if it's not a short term pay off.
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