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GLS18 Session Notes–Simon Sinek–The Infinite Game

Published August 16, 2018

TOPICS IN THIS ARTICLE

Leading OrganizationsStrategyVision

Story of the Vietnam War. The U.S. won most of the major battles and lost fewer troops. It raises the question: If you can decimate your enemy and win the major battles, how do you still lose the war?

We don’t fully understand the concept of winning and losing.

James Carse, Finite and Infinite Games
• Finite games have known players, fixed rules and agreed-upon objectives.
• Infinite games have known and unknown players, changeable rules and the objective is to perpetrate the game.

There is no such thing as winning an infinite game.

Story of Microsoft vs. Apple. At the Microsoft Summit, executives spent the majority of their presentations talking about how to beat Apple. At the Apple Summit, 100% of their executives talked about how to help teachers teach and how to help students learn.

The infinite player:

  • Understands that sometimes others have the better product.
  • Knows there is no such thing as winning, only ahead and behind.
  • Understands the only true competitor is yourself.

How to lead in an infinite game

1. You have to have a just cause.

  • Too many vision statements focus on being the best. But a truly just cause is something you’re willing to sacrifice for to advance.
    • Example of The U.S. Declaration of Independence. The idea that all people are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights which include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s something we will never actually achieve, but we will die trying.
  • Test your vision statement with these questions:
    • Is it resilient?
    • Is it inclusive?
    • Is it service-oriented?

Leaders are responsible for creating an environment in which people feel they can be their best.

2. You have to have trusting teams.

  • Leaders are responsible for creating an environment in which people feel they can be their best.
  • On a trusting team, people feel safe enough to raise their hands and say, “I made a mistake” or “I need some help.” They know that their colleagues and bosses will rush to their aid.
    • Story of the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas. What makes it extraordinary is the people who work there. The people there don’t just like their jobs but truly love their jobs.
    • Story of airline employee. She said, “If I don’t enforce the rules, I could lose my job.” She didn’t feel safe in her organization and her leaders didn’t trust her.
  • When employees are scared to make mistakes, they become more preoccupied with protecting themselves than with taking care of the customer.

We do not run our best races alone on the track. We run our best in a race when other runners are there to push us.

3. You have to have a worthy rival.

  • We do not run our best races alone on the track. We run our best in a race when other runners are there to push us.
    • Story of Simon’s rival. There is another guy who does what I do—writing and speaking—and his work is very high quality. I had mistakenly viewed him as his competitor. I had created a finite game where there was none. Now I view him as a worthy rival, someone who exists to push me and make me better.
    • Story of Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios. They made the experience in line extraordinary. That line experience pushed Disney to improve their lines.

 

4. You have to have existential flexibility.

  • When your entire business model is challenged, would you be willing to blow up your business to advance your just cause?
    • Story of Steve Jobs. After Jobs experienced graphic interface, he knew that technology would better serve his vision. His executives said, “We can’t do that. It would blow up the company.” Steve replied, “Better we should blow it up than someone else.”
    • Story of Kodak. In the 1970s, Kodak invented the digital camera but suppressed the technology because it would cannibalize film sales. The industry blew them up because they refused to blow themselves up.
  • If your teams believe in the cause and trust you, they will stand by through the short term challenges to reorganize your company so you can survive.

The pressures around us are overwhelming to focus on the short term, focus on the win, focus on being number one, and to think about ourselves before we think about others.

5. You have to have courage.

  • It takes great courage to lead.
  • The pressures around us are overwhelming to focus on the short term, focus on the win, focus on being number one, and to think about ourselves before we think about others.

What does it mean to live an infinite life?

We can choose to live our lives by finite rules or we can choose to live our lives as an infinite game.

By choosing to lead in the infinite game, we will make a forever impact in the lives of people around us.

 

*Disclaimer: GLS2018 Session Notes are only available in the United States*

 

⬅ Back to all GLS18 Session Notes

About the Author
speaker headshot for The Global Leadership 2018.

Simon Sinek

Best-selling Author; Founder

Start With Why

Simon Sinek is fascinated by the people and organizations that make the greatest, lasting impact in their organizations and in the world. Best known for popularizing the concept “start with why,” his talk on this topic is the third most watched talk on TED.com of all time. A New York Times best-selling author, Sinek’s latest book is Find Your Why: A Practical Guide to Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team.

Years at GLS 2018

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