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Five tips for playing the infinite game

Thanks to his blockbuster TED talks and bestselling books, Simon Sinek has become a well-known name in business leadership thinking. As a motivational speaker and leadership consultant he has challenged many leaders to reconsider the way they view business. He aims to continue doing that in his latest book, The Infinite Game.

 

PLAYING TILL GAME OVER

Sinek questions the validity of the mindset (and language) that prevails among many business leaders. They refer to ‘winning’, ‘being number one’ and ‘beating the competition’ as their ultimate business goal. This characterises what Sinek calls the finite game: with winners, losers and ultimately, an end to the game.

 

THE INFINITE GAME

The Infinite Game by Simon SinekHowever, Sinek posits that to make a significant impact, leaders need to adopt an infinite mindset – focussed not on achieving finite goals, but rather in strategically keeping yourself in the game. In an infinite game, players are both known and unknown and success is based on whether you are ahead or behind. It is the players who disappear, but the game keeps going.

 

In his new book, Simon Sinek outlines five ways that leaders can prosper in the infinite game:

 

1. HAVE A STRONG SENSE OF PURPOSE

Sinek warns leaders not to confuse ‘finite’ with ‘aimless’. Instead, he encourages leaders to strive for progress and momentum to keep propelling themselves and their organisations forward. And the way to move forward is to align all business activities to a strong sense of purpose. You don’t have to be a visionary or even have a unique vision, but you must devote your energy to something bigger than yourself. Sinek adds, “Every job you have should be contributing to the same vision.”

 

2. BUILD TRUST IN YOUR TEAMS

Leadership for Sinek is less like sport and more like parenting: “Leadership is not about being in charge. It’s about taking care of those in our charge. It’s a responsibility.” A perpetual view of the game helps leaders to understand the importance of empowering their teams to do their best. By becoming a nurturing and supportive leader to your teams, you’ll ensure they make it through the long haul as opposed to tapping out after a short sprint.

 

3. CHANGE YOUR VIEW OF COMPETITION

Shifting your mindset from ‘winning’ to ‘staying in play’ requires an adjustment in the way you view other players. Sinek recalls his short-sightedness when dealing with a rival. “His very existence revealed to me my weaknesses. And it was much easier to take that energy and put it against someone than it was to admit to myself that I’ve got some work to do”. In the infinite game, rivals must be seen as a means to identify areas for improvement, rather than someone to take down.

 

4. BE FLEXIBLE

Having existential flexibility means coming to terms with the fact that the game will continue, with or without you. An infinite mindset requires agility, and a willingness to pivot, letting go of long-held notions and ideas that no longer help you, your team or your business.

 

5. LEAD COURAGEOUSLY

“The courage to lead fundamentally means you’re willing to be open-minded, to consider that maybe, just maybe, the way you think the world works may be wrong… And just because everyone’s doing it, doesn’t mean it’s right,” says Sinek. Indeed, it takes real courage to choose people over profit, to challenge the status quo and to shift from a finite to an infinite mindset.

 


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