The concept of finite and infinite games was developed by James P. Carse in a book by the same name.
In a finite game, the purpose is winning. Examples of this are board games, sports, politics, and wars. In a finite game there are winners and losers. There’s also typically a beginning and an end.
Infinite games exist solely for the purpose of continuing the game. Examples of this are families, congregations, organizations, and nations. I like to think that while final games are about winning, infinite games are about getting better.
One way that infinite games get better is when we have a common mission. When we all believe we are in it for the same thing, it helps us to work towards improvement.
According to Carse, A player in a finite game seeks power. Because the goal is winning, power is the key competency to achieving the end. On the other hand, Carse contends that A player in an infinite game seeks sufficient strength. That is, they are looking for ways to not only survive but to thrive.
How often do you treat leadership as a finite game? When you are looking to win the next debate, get your program approved or achieve a goal for money, status or power, you are playing a finite game.
On the other hand, when you are cultivating relationships to build trust, are focusing everyone on a common mission, and helping to marshall resources so that everybody wins, then you are playing the infinite game.
In his book, The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek writes: “An infinite mindset embraces abundance whereas a finite mindset operates with a scarcity mentality. In the Infinite Game we accept that “being the best” is a fool’s errand and that multiple players can do well at the same time.” – Simon Sinek - The Infinite Game
Your church can only be its best when all the people are at their best. It will multiply its impact when it stops seeing other churches, nonprofits and community groups as competitors and starts to see them as partners.
In short, God can make the biggest difference when everyone is playing the infinite game. Your job as a leader is to help that happen.
The Center for Vital Leadership is a ministry of the Baltimore-Washington and Peninsula-Delaware Conferences