The Infinite Game

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  • [status:: read]
  • [rating:: 4]
  • [added:: 2022-12-11]
  • [started:: 2023-01-05]
  • [read:: 2023-01-18]



It’s a good book, but not as great as I expected it. Plenty of people I look up to have mentioned “Infinite Games”, so I was looking for a real game-changer of a read. This might also be due to the similar name of James Carse’s “Finite and Infinite Games” which this book was based upon. It’s often unclear which book people refer to.

Still, the book provides a helpful Mental Models MOC. Most of the aspects of business and life as an infinite game hasn’t been too new. I think being a Christian already set me up with quite an ‘infinite’ mindset. Viewing society and business through a Biblical lense (Domains of Society), makes it clear that there are things at stake higher than shareholder returns. But that there is an infinite cause that all work connects to: Humans are called to advance the Creation project.

Compared to a Biblical Worldview, it pales a bit in force. Why exactly should be pursue an infinite mindset instead of just focusing on our personal finite games? It taps into Biblical Truths but can’t articulate them as comprehensively as the Christian faith can.

Still, it introduces some helpful vocabulary and it does a good job in spelling out what the hallmarks of an infinite mindset are. Especially the emphasis on Trusting Teams was personally relevant for me.


Just Cause

  • A mission statement points to the past, a Just Cause to the future
  • it is something that makes other people want to join in and see succeed, generation after generation
  • standards:
    • For something—idealistic and positive
    • Inclusive—open to anyone who would like to improve
    • Service oriented—for the primary benefit of others
    • Resilient—able to endure political, technological and cultural change
    • Idealistic—big, bold and ultimately unachievable
  • Infinite leadership is “hire for the culture and you can teach the skills later”
  • Being “the best” is an egocentric, inflexibile cause
  • Milton Friedman is quoted as describing the point of business to maximise profit within the rules of the game
    • He is contrasted with Adam Smith, 18th century philosopher and “father of modern capitalism”
  • The the pillars of a nation: advance a purpose (ideology), protect people and generate a profit
    • Soviet Union: “all these circumstances imperatively demand the unification of the Soviet republics into one union state, capable of ensuring both external security and internal economic prosperity, and the freedom of the national development of peoples” — Declaration of the Formation of the Soviet Union
    • All three things show up there
  • “Trust is the stacking and layering of small moments and reciprocal vulnerability over time”. — Brené Brown
  • Trust matters. Create Trusting Teams.
  • SEAL teams have two axis of evaluation: Performance and Trust

Trust / performance axis

SEAL teams have two axis of evaluation: Performance and Trust. Often, they would choose low performance, high trust people. Emotional safety matters for the success of a team. When people feel safe to express themselves, information flows freely. After doing trsut training the Shell drilling team had an outstanding safety record.

Gladwell shares an adjacent story in Outliers – The Story of Success. Plane crashes reduced after copilots had training to express their concern. In a low trust environment, tragedy happens. In a high trust environment success is established through cooperation.

Worthy Rival

Apan Mulally, the CEO of Ford drove a Toyota Lexus, calling it the “finest car ever made”. Not to shame the company, but to give them something to aspire against. Rivals make us better.