When you think of your favorite story, what do you think of the most?
Is it the ending? The bitter truth of Bilbo Baggins coming back to his little home in the Shire, holding on to his little precious, certain he’ll never go out on an adventure like that ever again?
Or is it the journey? The sweet adventures of going out into the unknown and reaching out for something nobody of your kind has ever even imagined?
If you are like most people, you probably feel better about the latter (although the cozy ending is not too shabby, and definitely not wrong either).
The reason it happens is that most people find the journey more interesting than the actual ending. It’s where the characters are developed, it’s where the conflict happens, so it makes sense that we enjoy the fun parts that come before the destination is reached.
What does that all have to do with infinite games and the access economy?
Well, let’s start this over properly…
The Finite Game vs the Infinite Game
At a first glance, there’s only a very superficial distinction between finite and infinite games. Finite games are meant to have an end goal. They have rules, they have distinct and steady players, and they have winners and losers.
Infinite games, on the other hand, are played for the sake of playing. They are the Hobbit’s journey, not his destination, and definitely not his ending. As Seth Godin relates in one of his blog posts, mothers tend to always play the infinite game — they play it because they want to keep on playing it, not because there’s a clear end goal to it.
But as Godin puts it very aptly, some businesses and some countries do it too. Their purpose is to keep on playing, rather than reach a final destination of any kind. And it shows: they have been around for so long and they are still thriving. They don’t play the game because there’s a finite meaning to it, but because they just have to keep on playing.
Are Infinite Games worth it?
If you want a short answer to that, then that would be “yes, they are.”
But it’s not all black and white (because what is, other than #000000 and #FFFFFF?).
Infinite games are absolutely worth it because they help you focus on the very, very long-term (the “infinite term” if you wish). So if you are running a business, the infinite mindset will provide you with a good enough blueprint to make sure you are not just aiming to score big short-term and not know whatever comes next, once you hit your goal.
Infinite games are also worth it because they allow you to play according to your own tune, to the values you genuinely believe in: helping people grow, feeding the economy, fighting against injustice of all kinds, or taking care of mankind’s future by participating in the collective effort of fixing the environment before it’s too late.
It is very important to note here that an infinite game is not aimless. Most of the times, infinite games are just comprised out of smaller, finite games that connect to each other in an infinite chain. So, going back to the example of running a business, that would mean that your one-year goal is to hire three people, teach them all you know, and prosper as an entrepreneur as a result of that, not piggybacking on it.
Is it a must to play the infinite game?
No. Nobody can force you into any kind of game if you don’t want to be a player. You can take the finite road, or the in-between (the long-term game). You can just stay out of the finite/ infinite paradigm altogether.
Would it benefit you regardless of who you are, where you come from, and whether or not you’re running a business?
Yes. For all the reasons mentioned above — and more. Like the fact that an infinite game allows you to think big, dream big, and act big. Or the fact that you might just inspire plenty of people on your way. Or simply the fact that your mindset will always feed you the great ideas you need to move on, even when everything around you seems to be going wrong.
How to Play the Infinite Game
There are many ways to play the infinite game in every single field of human activity existing. You can play it as a parent or as a solopreneur, you can play it as a massive corporation or as a small local business, and you can play it as a politician or as someone working in a factory.
WHO you are doesn’t matter in the infinite game. WHAT you do and how you lead is exactly the essence of it.
If we had to narrow it down to just a few bullet points, there are five main pillars of running the infinite game:
- Exist to fuel a cause you believe to be just
- Build trust in your teams and the people surrounding you
- Find worthy rivals that fuel your game
- Be flexible when you need to make strategic shifts
- Find the courage you need to lead with a truly infinite mindset
Is the Access Economy an Infinite Game?
That is a difficult question.
In most ways, the access economy is a continuation of a finite game. Where we used to find value in owning things (houses, cars, objects), we now find value in experiencing them.
Clearly, that has a pretty strong infinite component to it — because ownership is never infinite (houses get sold, cars get broken, and objects pile up in garages and storage units). Experiences, however, are the very definition of something that goes on forever. An experience will stay with you for the rest of your life — and if it was good (or bad) enough, you will pass it along to future generations as well.
Furthermore, the sharing economy is a resilient one that has proven its worth in times of extreme uncertainty (such as the COVID-19 crisis we’re all still going through). How Airbnb managed to go public with their company in 2020, the year of the pandemic, is a very good example here that goes to show the future belongs to those who share, rather than those who own.
Last, but definitely not least, the access economy is one of values. Sharing produces less waste, is a lot more environmentally friendly, and infinitely more accessible to various strata of society than the ownership economy ever was.
So, at least from these points of view, the access economy is an infinite game.
Will the access economy go on forever?
Unfortunately, we don’t have a crystal ball to tell. But what all data is showing is that the sharing economy is here to stay for a long while — so if you want to play the infinite game, now would be the time to pivot.
Not sure how?
Simplr.io might have a pretty good idea 😉. Reach out to us and let’s talk about it!