Notes & Quotes: The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

The following are my favorite notes from Simon Sinek's The Infinite Game.
  1. When we say things like "people must come before profit," we often face resistance. Many of those who control the current system, many of our current leaders, tell us we are naive and don't understand the "reality" of how business really works. As a result, too many of us back down. We resign ourselves to waking up dreading to go to work, not feeling safe when we are there and struggling to find fulfillment in our lives. So much so that the search for that elusive work-life balance has become an entire industry unto itself.
  2. Great leaders set up their organizations to succeed beyond their own lifetimes, and when they do, the benefits -- for us, for business and even for the shareholder -- are extraordinary.
  3. A finite-minded leader uses the company's performance to demonstrate the value of their own career. An infinite-minded leader uses their career to enhance the long-term value of the company...and only part of that value is counted in money.
  4. Just because a company is big and has enjoyed financial success does not mean it is strong enough to last.
  5. Any leader who wants to adopt an infinite mindset must follow five essential practices:
    1. Advance a just cause.
    2. Build trusting teams.
    3. Study your worthy rivals.
    4. Prepare for existential flexibility.
    5. Demonstrate the courage to lead.
  6. When their is a Just Cause, a reason to come to work that is bigger than any particular win, our days take on more meaning and feel more fulfilling. Feelings that carry on week after week, month after month, year after year. 
  7. Leaders can rally people against something quite easily. They can whip them into a frenzy, even. For our emotions can run hot when we are angry or afraid. Being for something, in contrast, is about feeling inspired. Being for ignites the human spirit and fills us with hope and optimism. Being against is about vilifying, demonizing or rejecting. Being for is about inviting all to join in common cause. Being against focuses our attention on the things we can see in order to elicit reactions. Being for focuses our attention on the unbuilt future in order to spark our imaginations.
  8. Money is the fuel to advance a Cause, it not a Cause itself.
  9. The order in which a person presents information more often than not reveals their actual priorities and the focus of their strategies.
  10. The constant abuse since the late 1970s has left us with a form of capitalism that is now, in fact, broken. It is a kind of bastardized capitalism that is organized to advance the interests of a few people who abuse the system for capital gain, which has done little to advance the true benefits of capitalism as a philosophy (as evidenced by anticapitalist and protectionist movements around the globe). Indeed, the entire philosophy of shareholder primacy and Friedman's definition of the purpose of business was promoted by investors themselves as a way to incentivize executives to prioritize and protect their finite interests above all else.
  11. The Economic Policy Institute reported that in 1978, the average CEO made approximately 30 times the average worker's salary. By 2016, the average has increased over 800 percent to 271 times the average worker's pay. Where the average CEO has seen a nearly 950 percent increase in their earnings, the American worker, meanwhile, has seen just over 11 percent in theirs.
  12. If our goal is to build companies that can keep playing for lifetimes to come, then we must stop automatically thinking of shareholders as owners, and executives must stop thinking that they solely work for them. A healthier way for all shareholders to view themselves is as contributors, be they near-term or long-term focused. Whereas employees contribute time and energy, investors contribute capital (money). Both forms of contribution are valuable and necessary to help a company succeed, so both parties should be fairly rewarded for their contributions.
  13. In our modern day and age, it is the employee who bears the most cost for the money companies and their leaders make. They are the ones who must worry every time the company misses its arbitrary projections whether they will be sent home without the means to provide for themselves and their families. It is the employee who comes to work and feels that the company and its leaders do not care about them as human beings (note: offering free food and fancy offices is not the thing that makes people feel cared for). People want to be treated fairly and share in the wealth they helped produce in payment for the cost they bear to grow their companies.
  14. So many leaders, even some of the best-intentioned ones, often ask, "how do I get the most out of my people?" This is a flawed question, however. A better question to ask is, "How do I create an environment in which my people can work to their best?"
  15. It's not the people doing the job, it's the people who lead the people doing the job who can make the greater difference.
  16. How a leader lists their priorities reveals their bias. And their bias will influence the choices they make.
  17. Our goal, as leaders, is to ensure that our people have the skills -- technical skills, human skills or leadership skills -- so that they are equipped to work to their natural best and be a valuable asset to the team.
  18. The Marine Corps focuses on assessing the inputs, the behaviors, rather than the outcomes. And for good reason. They know that good leaders sometimes suffer mission failure and bad leaders sometimes enjoy mission success. The ability to succeed is not what makes someone a leader. Exhibiting the qualities of leadership is what makes someone an effective leader. Qualities like honesty, integrity, courage, resiliency, perseverance, judgment and decisiveness, as the Marines have learned after years of trial and error, are more likely to engender the kind of trust and cooperation that, over the course of time, increase the likelihood that a team will succeed more often than it fails. A bias for will before resources, trust before performance, increases the probability a team will perform at higher levels over time.
  19. One of the primary jobs of any leader is to make new leaders.
  20. I personally find it quite troubling when executives take credit for their "culture of performance," yet take no responsibility for a culture consumed by ethical fading.
  21. Disruption, remember, is often a symptom of a finite mindset. Leaders playing with a finite mindset often miss the opportunity to use a disruptive event in their industry to clarify their Cause. Instead, they double down on the finite game and simply start copying what the other players are doing with the hope that it will work for them too.
  22. Instead of leading the digital revolution, Kodak's executives chose to close their eyes, put their fingers in their ears and try to convince themselves that everything was gonna be just fine. And I guess it was...for a time. But it didn't last. It couldn't last. Finite strategies never do.
  23. Finite thinkers do not appreciate that an investment in people will ultimately benefit the company, the customer and their investments.