Do you feel that business is a competition—a game that must be won in a limited amount of time?
In his new book, The Infinite Game, author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek shares how “a worthy rival inspires us to take on an attitude of improvement.” Sinek admits that he first felt the need to compare himself to and despair about his perceived rival, Wharton professor Adam Grant. They shared a stage at a conference and both realized that there was no need to compete for book sales or any other marker. Since then, Sinek has turned his focus away from a finite mindset and arbitrary self-measurement and works only towards improving what he can offer to others.
I heard Sinek speak at the 2018 Virtuoso Travel Conference about his progress on The Infinite Game and was surprised when he explained that he told his publisher he would need another year to work on the book. He said the research was very important and he wanted it to be right and it would simply take longer.
As he says in the book, “Great leaders are the ones who think beyond ‘short term’ versus ‘long term.’ They are the ones who know that it is not about the next quarter or the next election; it is about the next generation…because there is no finish line, no practical end to the game, there is no such thing as ‘winning’ an infinite game.” We face deadlines, like the one he had to finish the book, but Sinek writes that to “succeed in the infinite game of business, we have to stop thinking about who wins or who’s the best and start thinking about how to build organizations that are strong enough and healthy enough to stay in the game for many generations to come.” Or to think more broadly: “Players with an infinite mindset want to leave their organizations in better shape than they found them” and say “I lived a life worth living.”
Since I first heard Sinek at a travel conference, I thought I would share the analysis in his book about the Four Seasons. Sinek says—and I agree—that the hotel chain is a wonderful brand because the “managers at the Four Seasons understand that their job is to set an environment for [employees] in which [they] can naturally thrive. Leaders will work to create these environments when we train them to prioritize their people over the results.”
For example, the managers routinely walk the halls, ask questions and “actually care about the answer,” Sinek writes. “Because the leadership at the Four Seasons cultivates the will of their people before the resources they can produce, the people who work there want to give their jobs their all and the guests of the Four Seasons can feel it.”
“In any game, there are always two currencies required to play—will and resources,” says Sinek. “When we talk about will, we’re talking about the feelings people have when they come to work.” When managers care about their team and the team takes care of the guests, everyone makes an effort to do their best and use their skills to solve issues before they become problems.
Sinek recommends that businesses “put people before profit as often as possible.” Business can make money and change the world, he insists, and our rivals can make us better if we see them more as inspiration then competition. The Infinite Game offers a noble philosophy that companies and leaders great and small would stand to benefit from adopting.