The Infinite Game of Simon Sinek (Book Review)

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My last weekend was marked by a parallel reading of three books. Previously, I never thought it was possible. Perhaps this is not a good way of reading fiction, but with nonfiction, this approach works well for me.

When I read nonfiction literature, I have to pause once in a while in order to digest it properly, so I may as well move to another subject matter area, temporarily, eventually returning to the first book. Unless there’s yet another thought-provoking and easy read that wins in this infinite learning game. Because that’s what learning is.

This time, the winning book was The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek.

TL;DR: I liked the book. It is very readable, with lots of real-life and quite recent business examples and references, which makes it even more memorable and quotable.

All of us have seen Sinek’s TED talks and numerous videos. Even “The Why” that made him famous is clear in my mind as a Youtube video, and not as a book, although I had read it a long time ago. Sinek is a great storyteller, and I would prefer listening and watching him. His stories are simple, honest and true.

Most of them happened in our lifetime, or we may have heard them before from eyewitnesses. Simon Sinek’s contribution is in giving them a new spin: by focusing our attention on some new facets, he made his message about having (or not having) a Just Cause extremely vivid and clear.

While reading The Infinite Game, I could see that his ideas are not groundbreaking-new.

Dan Pontefract described the idea of Just Cause – an appealing vision of a future state in which benefits are felt by employees and customers, society as a whole – in his book The Purpose Effect. I would suggest that Pontefract’s Purpose was a personal raison d’etre that would create Just Cause for the organization.

In The Excellence Dividend, Tom Peters alludes, already in the book title to the primacy of excellence, personal and organizational, and usefulness to society, over short-term earnings. He also emphasizes the need for Leadership Excellence that must be closely associated with one of the five essential practices of Sinek’s Infinite Mindset: Courageous Leadership.

Trusting Teams, another integral part of the Infinite Game, has been covered by Patrick Lencioni in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Absence of Trust is a waste of energy and time on defensive behaviors, that otherwise would have been spent productively, advancing a Just Cause.

Personally, I enjoyed, for a change, reading a brand-new book, written by a popular author and speaker, that not once mentions “agile” and “lean” and “six sigma” – the go-to’s of today’s “thought leaders.” This is another sign of Sinek’s deep and honest thinking and his research conducted for the book.

One could say that his notion of Existential Flexibility is exactly what others have been selling as Lean-Agile-Scrum potion for the last twenty years or so. Wrong.

Well before the Agile cult, Henry Mintzberg described what some people fervently call Agile as “crafting strategies.” Based on his research, he suggested an “emergent” approach to strategy, “crafting” strategy like the potter does when working with a lump of clay on the wheel. A manager’s job is not just seeing ahead and directing but rather detecting subtle patterns in the present and – back to Sinek – have “the capacity to initiate an extreme disruption to a business model or strategic course in order to more effectively advance a Just Cause.”

Common sense, you think? No. In fact, only a small number of businesses have a clear and meaningful Cause or Purpose, to say nothing about the individual goals and their alignment with the values. Common sense is never really common, don’t we know that?

Even though I have thoroughly enjoyed The Infinite Game thinking experience, Sinek’s first book, Start With Why, was probably the most memorable one. I can see Simon explaining his personal Infinite Game applying his Golden Circle:

“Everything I do, I believe in our power to build a word in which we wake up every morning inspired, feel safe at work, and return home fulfilled. To build this world, I share my vision with great leaders who know that the well-being of the next generation is more important than shareholder benefits. I just happen to share this vision in my books. Wanna read one?”

Yes. Absolutely. Let the Infinite Game continue!

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Website: Collectiver

Sergei Brovkin is the founder of Collectiver Inc., a consulting practice that makes good companies better. Sergei is a performance improvement expert who focuses on the “soft stuff”: people, processes, and culture.