FINITE VS INFINITE MINDSET

Billy Ryan
February 14, 2023
FINITE VS INFINITE MINDSET

You’ve most likely come across the common expression and proverbial phrase, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” at some point in life. This expression is typically used to indicate that one’s reaction to a specific situation brings opportunity for either pessimism or optimism. Similarly, your mindset could be the deciding factor between your business being either a successful one or a failed one.

In Simon Sinek’s groundbreaking book, The Infinite Game, the effects of having a finite and infinite mindset are expounded upon in a business context. Sinek writes “A finite mindset views situations in life as either win or lose, as though there is a scorecard. An infinite mindset is grateful, builds relationships, and works toward the common good.” But how can we ensure we’re not playing the wrong game and instead find success in becoming infinite players in the “infinite game?”

Differences Between Infinite Vs. Finite Mindset

Finite Games Have Exact Rules

Hockey, soccer, and other popular sports that many are familiar with all have one thing in common, they are finite games. Finite games have clear rules and goals, as well as a clear winner in the end.

Infinite Game Opportunities Are Available

However, certain “games” are more incalculable and quite random; these games can be described as infinite games. The difference between finite and infinite games is that in an infinite game, there is not a certain formula in which to succeed, nor is there a specific set of rules and players. Two types of infinite games found all over the world are politics and business.

One knows that you cannot simply start with the goal of “winning business” or “winning politics” as a whole. Attempting to win these games is ultimately unachievable, although it seems the vast majority of people attempt to play these games using the wrong rules anyway. Simply put, as said by James P. Carse, the first inspirational speaker behind these mindsets, “A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.”

Concern For Group Vs. Self

To lead with an infinite mind, a business owner must think not only of their own life and well-being but the well-being of their employees as well. There is no such thing as an “us vs. them” mentality for those attempting to embrace infinite-minded leadership in their businesses and being service oriented is essential. As an infinite leader, it’s important to foster trusting teams that will work with you and aid in achieving your ideal vision of your business.

Long-Term Vs. Short-Term

A finite-minded leader will merely work to benefit their short-term success just cause they want to generate profit quickly. However, this profit is not sustainable for finite players. Meanwhile, a leader with an infinite mindset will focus on long-term goals to secure a better, more profitable future for their company. Finite-minded leaders may also inadvertently harm their company by focusing their strategies around threats posed by their rivals. Those with infinite mindsets recognize that having a worthy rival sets an opportunity for learning and exploring rival innovations that may strengthen one’s own business.

Proactive Vs. Reactive

In his book, Sinek outlined that “When we focus on the competition, we become reactive. When we focus on improving ourselves, we become innovative.” When attempting to embrace infinite mindsets to have a successful business, it’s important to feel inspired by your competition and stay true to your company’s just cause rather than attempt to “beat” them as if you’re playing finite games. Those with an infinite mindset will proactively prepare for disruptions rather than react to specific disturbances.

Resilience

Sinek argues that the key to having a resilient business in life is to practice existential flexibility. Within the infinite game of the world, there are both known players and unknown players, there are no fixed rules, and objectives change like water, the goal is to stay flexible and to stay in the game. Finite players who put their focus on performance standards and trying to beat competitors rather than longevity will ultimately fail. Infinite players who focus on their own company’s success will last well into the next generations, as they were not distracted by unknown players.

What Is An Infinite Mindset in Business?

Simon Sinek notes that “When business leaders have an infinite mindset, success is not quantified by short-term financial goals-arbitrary metrics over arbitrary time frames, but longer-term visions: a desire to contribute to an organization, not just during the time they are there, but well beyond their own tenure.” Infinite-minded leaders build trusting teams that help them secure both a better future and a winning business.

Growth

Those with a finite mindset aim to make the bottom line, while those who play infinite games aim for growth. Finite mindsets keep businesses small as the owners are locked into a lacking mindset and therefore race through their resources to stay in the game. Those with an infinite mindset know that growth isn’t linear, and their setbacks enable them to raise their team’s knowledge and skills.

Cooperation

Infinite-minded individuals understand that cooperation is intrinsic to multiplying opportunities. It’s integral for a leader with an infinite mindset to have trusting teams. The ability to communicate openly and discuss issues in the company without judgment will enable the team to solve problems more efficiently.

Big Picture

In both finite and infinite games, focusing on the big picture is key to achieving your goals. Having a just cause helps create the perfect environment for infinite-minded leaders to stay focused and motivated to achieve their ultimate goal for the company. Simon Sinek writes, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” Your just cause shouldn’t be generic or self-centered, but rather for the primary benefit of others.

Legacy

Sinek argues that “…in an infinite game, the next quarter, next year timeline does not matter as much as the next generation. One of the fundamental keystones to participating in the infinite game is not to beat out worthy rivals or other infinite-minded organizations, the goal is to keep your company in the game, even when you’re no longer there.

Why Is An Infinite Mindset Important?

An infinite mindset helps a company develop trust among employees, as well as better cooperation and company growth. Simon Sinek notes that when leaders have a finite mindset, they are also more likely to have unmotivated employees. He speculates that this can ultimately lead to the demise of the company, as this brings in less cooperation and more dishonesty among workers.

How To Adopt An Infinite Mindset

Simon Sinek notes that there are five steps for a company to adopt an infinite mindset.

  1. Finding a Just Cause – To lead in an infinite game Simon Sinek claims leaders must have a just cause that will inspire employees to work, he describes this as an “ideal vision” for the company.
  2. Building a Trusting Team – Allow room for employees to make mistakes because they are human, rather than immediately laying off or punishing them, which discourages open communication amongst your team members.
  3. Admire Worthy Rivals – In the infinite game trying to beat competitors is a waste of resources and in order to improve the company you should study worthy rivals instead.
  4. Focus on Existential Flexibility –  Another key to developing an infinite mindset is to focus your attention on flexibility rather than fixed rules. A company can only be as successful as its ability to adapt to a changing world.
  5. Find the Courage to Lead – Finite-minded organizations are unwilling to stand apart from the status quo; this is the wrong mindset in a successful company. Infinite players understand that in life, change causes friction but can lead to long-term benefits as long as they are willing to play the game.

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