Book Club Tuesday – The Infinite Game

old books on shelf

Welcome to a new recurring #baldinbusiness feature called Book Club Tuesday. Each week I will spotlight one book, and have a little fun in the process.

Book: The Infinite Game

Author: Simon Sinek

Length: 272 pages / 6 hours and 56 minutes via Audible

3 takeaways: Leaders are not responsible for results; they are responsible for the people that are responsible for the results. A just cause is something a company or organization is FOR, not against. An infinite mindset is about staying in the game, being flexible to change in pursuit of the just cause, and having the courage to do so.

What I found Surprising:Competitors compete for customers; rivals look for followers.” This view coincides with my belief that we (Hoffer Plastics) have several “worthy rivals.” While these rivals might not embrace our just cause, that doesn’t mean we cannot learn from them. In other words, viewing them as “worthy rivals” does two things: First, it allows us to learn from them instead of dismissing them because they’re “rivals.” By learning, I don’t mean we copy what they are better at so we can beat them (a finite pursuit). Rather, we learn from them to become more effective in pursuing our just cause of improving the lives of others. The latter view is different because it is not about “beating” anyone. The business we run aims to be infinite, so there is no finish line. Further, a “worthy rival” is necessary because they will push us to become the best we can be.

As may already be apparent, the second feature of this worldview is that it frees us to cheer our “rivals” on instead of rooting for their demise. While this might sound like the kind of things one is “supposed” to write, it isn’t. It simply is because our just cause – Hoffer Plastics exists to enhance the lives of people through manufacturing – is not only unattainable on our own, it is unattainable in this lifetime. People will always need their lives enhanced. So, while “manufacturing” practices will, over time, change, this cause will not. Nor will it ever be met.

A few words on Culture: Sometimes I read books that I suspect my father might roll his eyes at, but I don’t think this is one of them. The stories told by those who knew my grandfather all seem to revolve around his pursuit of enhancing the lives of others. So, while he founded a company that manufactured injection-molded parts, its core DNA has always been around serving people (customers, suppliers, team members, community, etc.). In hindsight, this book made me realize that I never heard a single story growing up about grandpa being involved in an injection-molding breakthrough, yet as a kid I was in the audience when he was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame. Certainly, they don’t just let anyone into the Plastics Hall of Fame (no jokes!). Yet, I never heard these stories growing up, which in hindsight is so telling. For, what the company “did” was not as powerful as “who” it impacted. And to be sure, I heard countless stories about how Grandpa impacted team members, customers, community, etc. These stories keep coming to the surface long after his death. I even heard a new a one yesterday – November 4, 2019.

More Thoughts on Rivals: On a personal note, I struggle to this day to figure out who are “competitors” are. While I can list name of companies, we simply don’t fixate on them. Rather, we fixate on people. We do have a few “worthy rivals.” I can think of one in our bench-marking group that is so incredibly profitable it amazes me. Recently, they toured our plant and I think we both got better in the process. Don’t tell them, but I REALLY like them. On the other hand, we have a “worthy rival” in the spouted pouch space that typically comes to our booth at trade shows and tells us we, and all our products, suck. I am not making this up unfortunately. The funny thing is that not only have they have had a tremendous amount success worldwide; we have gotten better as a result of their good work. At trade shows, I don’t go to their booth because I know their products are already good. I also know that when they create something new, someone from their team will most likely come to tell us how much better it is than what we do. It may or may not be, but that isn’t the point. The point is that we are focused on our just cause. It is our mission. I would love for this “rival” to join THAT pursuit. They are invited, and there is always room for more to join. “Beating them,” however, is not what I am concerned about. It doesn’t get me out of bed. There is plenty of room for them and us. So, I wish them well.

Who Should Read this book? I don’t write this every week, but this is a must-read for just about everyone reading this blog.

“If you haven’t read hundreds of books, learning from others who went before you, you are functionally illiterate. You can’t coach, and you can’t lead.” Jim Mattis