The Infinite Game

I picked up The Infinite Game for my then-fiancé last year for Christmas. Judging from the blurb on the back and the first few pages, it seemed like an interesting premise. The core idea is simple — there are two types of games, finite and infinite. Finite games have defined rules, players, and starting and ending states. Infinite games have rules that change, players can enter and leave, and they have no end state. Seeing things as infinite games rather than finite games would bring more success and fulfillment. The premise seemed interesting, and I was particularly looking to see it applied to topics around personal and career development.

This is probably my own fault for not researching deeper before buying the book, but that’s not what The Infinite Game is about. Almost the entire book applies the concept to the business world through anecdotal examples, arguing that seeing business as an infinite game is necessary for long-lasting and successful businesses. In addition to the core idea of infinite games, Sinek also introduces several principles he sees as foundational to this, including identifying a “Just Cause” for the business, building trusting teams, and finding a “Worthy Rival”. Personally, these ideas seem tenuously tied to the titular idea of the book.

Rather, the main theme of the book as I read it was ethical companies — most of the examples were about treating employees and customers right, seeing beyond short-term shareholder profits, and leaving the world a better place than we found it. I would have likely picked up a book titled about this as well, and then not felt the dissonance between the title and the content that I did here.

There is one other thing to say about this book, although it’s a broader issue. The Infinite Game falls into that category of popular non-fiction where the entire book could have been a blog post. The length of the book is overwhelmingly consumed by examples and repeating the core ideas.

All that said, for the average reader that is not in a leadership position, The Infinite Game does provide a refocusing on choosing the companies that we choose to work for or support. I don’t necessarily regret reading it, but I also wouldn’t recommend it for someone looking for a discussion of the idea on the front cover.