The Infinite Game: How to Build a Better Business

(Matt Turner)

Simon Sinek had spoke at Virtuoso Travel Week in 2011, where he discussed his book "Start With Why." Virtuoso CEO Matthew D. Upchurch invited him back this year to learn more about the concepts discussed in his latest work, "The Infinite Game," which tries to answer the question: "How do you stay ahead in a game with no end?"

Sinek began by explaining what an infinite game is, as opposed to a finite game, which has set players, rules and an ending (think baseball, football, chess). He explained an infinite game as something that continuously changes— the players, rules—and there is no ending (think marriage, therapy or running a business). When you combine the two—say, applying finite rules to an infinite game—it can result in you running out of resources or the will to continue pushing forward. Here's how you can apply his concepts to your agency, in order to create a more successful business but, more importantly, a more rewarding business—both for you and your clients.

1. Find Your Just Cause

This will be your brand's mission statement; it must be something you're willing to sacrifice for—such as your time. Sinek says your "just cause" must be resilient, inclusive and service-oriented. To elaborate, it must be resilient to cultural, political or technological changes, so, as time progresses, your mission remains pertinent and necessary; your cause must also be an invitation to those who believe what you believe—to those who want to actively participate and help your cause; and the primary benefit of the mission is not the contributor—decisions must be made to the benefit of the customers. 

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2. Build a Trusting Team

Building off having an all-inclusive "just cause," Sinek says you must have an equally inclusive team. Create an atmosphere where your team trusts each other; however, he doesn't always mean that you must trust each other to complete your portion of the job. You must have a team that is vulnerable, meaning they are comfortable asking for help or admit to making a mistake (as long as it means they learn from it). 

3. Find a Worthy Rival

Don't confuse a rival with a competitor, Sinek says. A competitor is someone who you focus on defeating, which is something you can't do in an infinite game. He likens it to brands who claim to be No. 1 in a respective category: Sinek says it's essentially meaningless as there wasn't a set model for the competition and, further, that this can only be temporary. A rival, however, is often someone who does the things you might do poorly very well. Sinek says you should admire that person and strive to be better because of that person. 

4. Have Existential Flexibility

Not everyone will have to experience this, Sinek says; however, if it arises, you must have the ability to confront it. Existential flexibility, he says, is the ability to fundamentally change your business. If you see "the writing on the wall," can you do what needs to be done to tear down your business and build it back up with a better model? 

Sinek told two stories: One of when Apple execs—Steve Jobs included—toured Xerox's facility and learned of its graphic user interface (the visual representation of a computer). His team, already have poured hours and millions of dollars into its latest product, appreciated the function but didn't want to invest in it as their latest product was near launch. Jobs, on the other hand, was adamant that they must invest and rebuild their computers using the graphics user interface. They listened and they changed how computers worked forever. Today, Apple is the first and only trillion-dollar company. The second story was of Kodak, who created a digital camera in the '70s but fearing it would put film out of business, they held onto it. Eventually Kodak began licensing its product, instead of investing in it, and once those licenses expired in 2012, Kodak went bankrupt. 

The moral: You must be able to make the changes and sacrifices necessary to making your business more successful.

5. Be a Courageous Leader

This point related back to building a trusting team. Anyone can be a courageous leader, Sinek says. Not all leaders must have a "vision," nor do they all need to be charismatic but they must be courageous. To do so, Siney says to become a student of leadership—read on it, study and surround yourself with other great leaders. To help build your courage, however, Sinek says you must, like in the first point, build a team who have the same beliefs as you. When they believe in your cause, they will believe in you. 

Sinek adds that you mustn't confuse leadership and rank. Anyone can be a leader. He also adds that leadership is not taking charge but take care of those in your charge.

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