From sports to politics to war, games are ingrained in our way of living. Business, too, is a game in which different companies and individuals act as players in competition.
According to traditional game theories, two types of games exist: finite and infinite. The terms and their qualities were first conceptualized by James P. Carse in his best-selling book Finite and Infinite Games.
Leadership expert Simon Sinek takes Carse’s game theories and applies them to business. In the business world, through our mindset and behavior, we choose what type of game we play and the leader we are in our company.
Finite and infinite leaders play by different rules and have different objectives. While there are finite games within the business world, the industry as a whole cannot be won, and is therefore an infinite game. Follow below for a more in-depth look at the two types of players, or leaders, and their role in the game of business.
For finite leaders, their perspective is very limited and controlled. Uncertainty poses a threat to such leaders, as they feel anxious about the possibility of a surprise. Having controlled environments brings them a sense of security, and for this, they find comfort in rules.
When playing the game of business, finite leaders seek power and to be the best. The competition, in their eyes, is other companies and individuals in their industry. They compare themselves to competitors and base their objectives and strategies off of what others are doing, assuming the competition knows what’s best. Finite leaders, in sum, are playing the game to win.
The problem with finite leaders in business is that they don’t know what game they’re playing. Finite games, according to Sinek, are made up of known players, fixed rules, and an agreed-upon objective. Sports are a good example of finite games, with known rules and a clear cut winner and loser. Finite leaders play to win, but “winning” business doesn’t exist. There are no agreed up criteria or time frames across a field of work. The goal of business is to survive and outlast your competition, not to beat them.
On the other hand, infinite leaders are energized and motivated by uncertainty, viewing it as an opportunity to explore new avenues and ways of thinking. They find their safety in relationships and invest in building trust with others.
While finite leaders look externally at their competitors, infinite leaders take a more internal approach. Of course, infinite leaders stay up to date with their competition’s progress, they focus more on how they as a company can innovate and carve their own path in the industry. They’re more concerned with their own vision than their competition. In this way, finite leaders tend to look down while infinite leaders look ahead.
Infinite leaders know what game they’re playing. They realize there is no winner in the infinite game of business, so they play to keep playing and surviving. Infinite games have both known and unknown players, the rules can change, and the objective is to keep playing. The only competition that infinite leaders face is themselves.
According to Forbes, finite leaders playing in an infinite game will eventually run out of will and resources, having to drop out of the game, which comes in forms of a bankruptcy, merger, or acquisition.
The game of business has outlasted any company or individual. To be a successful player in the infinite game, you have to lead with an infinite mindset. For a deeper look at how to adopt an infinite mindset, stay up to date with our blog and how we can help you enhance your leadership presence.