The Infinite Game

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The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

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The JC is indebted to TED-talker extraordinaire Simon Sinek for the TED talk which introduced him to James P. Carse’s obscure but brilliant book Finite and Infinite Games, which provides the basic idea for this, Sinek’s own take on the subject.

Alas, “basic” idea, in more ways than one: Carse’s hypothesis is subtle, deep and many-splendoured. Its ideas continue to unfold on you, like their own infinite game, months after you first ingest them.

Would that you could say the same about Sinek’s book. No such luck.

Where Sinek understands Carse at all, he does so superficially and in flat monochrome. But that isn’t often. Mostly, Sinek misses Carse’s point altogether, and presents “finite mindsets” and “infinite mindsets” as mutually-exclusive negative and positive moral values, and hence delivers a glib, lump-headed social democratic tract, which is not Carse’s industry at all.

Sinek manages also to misrepresent Adam Smith, Shareholder capitalism, Evolution by natural selection, Friedrich Nietzsche and, most egregiously of all poor old Milton Friedman, whom Sinek paints as a kind of selfish Gorgon; something he emphatically was not.

In fairness, Carse’s book, though elegant, is gnomic. It asks questions of its reader. It requires, but richly rewards, hard work.

This seems to be work Sinek has not put in. His own book reads as if he’s read Carse’s flyleaf, thought, “okay, got it,” and taken off, embroidering the basic concept with his own pat ideas, some of which really aren’t great.

The greatest tragedy will be if Sinek, who doubtless has a knack for popularising, wipes out Carse’s original, because Sinek’s version — which boils down to, “wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was kind to one another and businesses weren’t so rapacious” won’t last, and could take a better work out with it.

Anecdotal, and ironically historical — it is very easy reconstruct an “infinite mindset” from a completed story. Not so easy to predict one.

“ to line a life of service”.

Pukesome moments

“if this book inspired you please pass it on to someone you would like to inspire”

Adam Grant