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Simon Sinek: “Our leaders don’t know the game they’re playing”​

Source | LinkedIn | Isabelle Roughol | Journalist & writer | People + Product newsroom leadership | Co-founding editor at LinkedIn

Simon Sinek is an avowed optimist. He’s even made it his Linkedin headline. His life mission, he says, is “to help build a world in which the vast majority of people wake up every single morning inspired, feel safe at work, and return home fulfilled at the end of the day.” He’s pursued that mission through books, lectures, social media… and judging by his millions of readers and followers, it’s working. In his new book “The Infinite Game”, to be released October 15, Sinek explores the concept of finite and infinite games, popularized by theologian James Carse in the 1980s. Business, Sinek says, is a game that cannot be won, too often played as if it could. And we all suffer for it. 

Isabelle Roughol: Let’s start with the concepts. What are finite and infinite games? 

Simon Sinek: A finite game is a game in which there’s a beginning, a middle and an end. The players are known, the rules are agreed upon. The objective is to win the game. When the game is won, when the game comes to a conclusion, the game ends. We all go home. Football, for example.

Then, there’s an infinite game. An infinite game has known and unknown players. The rules are changeable and you can play however you want. The objective is to perpetuate the game, to stay in the game as long as possible. If we think about it, we are players in infinite games every day of our lives. There’s no such thing as winning in friendship, there’s no such thing as winning in marriage. There’s definitely no such thing as winning in global politics and there’s no such thing as winning business. Nobody’s declared the winner of business. 

But, if we think about it, if we listen to the words of too many leaders, they don’t actually know the game they’re playing. They talk about being number one, being the best, or beating their competition. The problem is when we play with a finite mindset in a game that has no finish line, there’s some very predictable and consistent outcomes. There’s the decline of trust, the decline of cooperation and the decline of innovation, and eventually the demise of the organization.

What does it look like to run an organization with an infinite mindset?

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