With the Super Bowl on people’s minds, the question often asked is, “Who do you think is going to win the game?”  It is easy to determine because whomever has more points when time runs out wins.  If it is tied, they go until someone scores.  There is an end.  However, when it comes to business or many processes in business there is not an ‘end to the game’.  Just because the company was #1 in service or sales this year, it does not mean they will always be number one.

Simon Sinek in his latest book, The Infinite Game, discusses this exact problem.  Sinek states most companies are playing an infinite game with finite mindset. A finite game is one where there are known players, fixed rules and an agreed upon objective, like a football game.  An infinite game has known and unknown players, changeable rules, and the objective is to perpetuate the game.  When there is a game with no finish line there is nothing as winning.  Examples of infinite games include global politics, climate, business, and parenting.  You never hear the phrase “Those parents won parenting.”  However, you often hear of business leaders who want to ‘Be Number One’ or are ‘Beating Their Competition’.  The only way to measure this is to create an arbitrary ‘finish line’ so the business can be ‘Number One”. However, this is only a measurement for that period.  They are number one for now until a new finish line is established.

In an infinite game, the journey is more important than winning or losing.  The journey is the why.  Why are we in business; why do we want to be good parents; why do we want a better global climate.

John F. Kennedy made his famous ‘Moonshot Speech’ where he declared “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”.  While one the great speeches of all time, most people remember this phrase with its finish line.  Most people do not remember the why behind this moonshot.  This was uttered in the second half of his statement, “because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” Earlier in his speech, Kennedy states, “We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people.”  We saw the withdrawing of funding for NASA once they hit the ‘finish line’ of landing a human on the moon instead of looking at the infinite game of new knowledge to be gained and used for the progress of all people.

The only true competitor in an infinite game is yourself. People and companies do not need to be the best, they need to be better.  The best is impossible to reach without a finish line.  Once you’re the best, there is no incentive to be better. Striving to be better gives people their why and a drive to become more fulfilled at work and at home.