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What Are Infinite Games

James Carse, in his wonderful book, Finite and Infinite Games, suggests:

There are at least two kinds of games.
One could be called finite, the other infinite.

The finite game is played for the purpose of winning,
an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play,
...and bringing as many persons as possible into the play.

Finite players play within boundaries;
infinite players play with boundaries.

The 4.54 billion year evolution of nature on this planet is our best example of an infinite game.

The Grameen Bank micro-credit initiative of Muhamma Yunus is a socio-economic example of an infinite game. During the three decades since Yunas founded Grameen, micro-lending has spread to nearly every part of the globe and the field of microfinance has evolved to bring other financial services to people spurned by commercial banks.

Distinguishing finite from infinite games using business as an example

The purpose of business is to make a profit.
The bottom line is supreme.
  • Excellent triple bottom line (People, Planet and Profit) performance is essential to ensure both organizational and global sustainability. Two out of three aren't enough.
Our mission is to be the best in the world.
  • Our mission is to be the best for the world.
Keep your eye on the ball. Do what it takes to achieve this quarter's financial goals.
  • Design for distributed resilient operational capacities, for excellence in all domains of performance, and for developing leadership's capacity to create a sustainable future—for our organization and for the larger whole.
Divide and conquer.
  • Connect, collaborate, co-create and co-evolve.
Corporate Social Responsibility is becoming an important compliance issue.
  • CSR, when approached creatively and proactively, can become a foundational ROI initiative—corporate social opportunity.
Effective leaders are able to motivate and otherwise manage the performance of their people.
  • Effective leaders create a context where leadership is widely distributed, where motivation is intrinsic in the work design, and where performance development is woven into the fabric of daily operations.
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