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Finite and Infinite Games

What type of business are you involved in?

If you have children or have ever been a teacher, then you know that kids have two types of games that they like to play. The games that children play can be categorized as finite or infinite, and they have a tendency to choose one over the other.


A finite game is one where there is a winner and a loser, and once those roles are assigned based on some result or conclusion the game ends. An infinite game requires imagination. Rules are created in the moment when playing infinite games. The goal of any infinite games is to have it go for as long as possible. The value of an infinite game comes from how long all parties involved can sustain it.


The overall quality of these games increases with an increase of players and how long those players have played similar games in the past. Additionally, the relationship that these players have with each other can also affect the quality of the infinite game.


The games that children play can be seen in the financial games we play with each other as adults. “In every conversation, someone is buying and someone is selling.” In the exchange of ideas, we are trying to add value or take value from each other. When doing business, most of what we do on a daily basis is selling a product and/or service to other people, for our own business or on the behalf of our clients.

Are you positioning your sales for the best type of game?

Certain types of businesses can benefit from the win or lose scenario found in finite games. There can be zero-sum conclusions in business, however, only one party benefits from these types of interactions and relationships. Instead, it’s better to find ways to create infinite games with your clients and business partners. How can we create long term relationships that compound in value over time?


The longer we work with people within our teams and on a customer-to-seller relationship, the more value is exchanged over time.


We need to consider how our businesses are set up for long term relationships. Every facet of our business, from marketing to customer relations, has to take into account the long term implications of each action made. We may not have complete control of the type of game we are playing, based on the industry we are in. Yet, most successful companies are playing infinite games.


The longer you provide value to people, and create new packages of value in products and services, the longer you’ll stay in business. Capitalism is the most basic infinite game, so it only makes sense that an infinite game is the best to play in any business relationship.


Image Credit: Unsplash

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