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Infinite Games
Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Bill Veltrop, PathFinders, Soquel, California
Self Portrait at
Collective Wisdom Initiative
The Infinite Games

What Are Infinite Games?

James Carse, in his wonderful book, Finite and Infinite Games, suggests:

There are at least two kinds of games.
One could be called finite, the other infinite.

The finite game is played for the purpose of winning,
an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play,
...and bringing as many persons as possible into the play.

Finite players play within boundaries;
infinite players play with boundaries.

Distinguishing finite from infinite games using business as an example

The purpose of business is to make a profit.
The bottom line is supreme.
  • Excellent triple bottom line (People, Planet and Profit) performance is essential to ensure both organizational and global sustainability. Two out of three aren't enough.
Our mission is to be the best in the world.
  • Our mission is to be the best for the world.
Keep your eye on the ball. Do what it takes to achieve this quarter's financial goals.
  • Design for distributed resilient operational capacities, for excellence in all domains of performance, and for developing leadership's capacity to create a sustainable future—for our organization and for the larger whole.
Divide and conquer.
  • Connect, collaborate, co-create and co-evolve.
Corporate Social Responsibility is becoming an important compliance issue.
  • CSR, when approached creatively and proactively, can become a foundational ROI initiative—corporate social opportunity.
Effective leaders are able to motivate and otherwise manage the performance of their people.
  • Effective leaders create a context where leadership is widely distributed, where motivation is intrinsic in the work design, and where performance development is woven into the fabric of daily operations.
An essay on Generative Capacity-Building as a Core Process talks of different ways of seeing what's going on. Kotter and Heskett have demonstrated that long-term focus trumps short-term. Looking through a stakeholder lense shows us inclusion is best. The rainbow lenses lets us see part of the invisible spectrum, becuase you can't count everything that counts. The A-B-C lense focuses on Doug Engelbart's concepts that in addition to the work (A), you've got improving the work (B), and improvements to (B). If A is managing a network, B might be a course in network troubleshooting, and C might be the addition of remote labs to provide opportunities for practice. There's lots of good stuff here, and Bill expresses it clearly and succinctly.

If any of this whets your appetite, check out the Palette of Possibilities, which includes all of the lenses and a process for applying them. The Design Principles for Generative Initiatives looks good -- "Wholeness is contagious. Be a carrier."

The Dis-tinc-tion-ar-y is a toolbox of metaphors, concepts, and catalysts to help you work with the notions above. I've got to update my Glossary here at Internet Time.

I had the pleasure of spending the better part of a day with Bill and a group of friends.
"Look back on the present from the future. There's power in standing in a different place."

Intentionality + imagination = the capacity to be your essence. High time to name and give voice to collective essence and accelerate conscious evolution.


Bill's work resonates beautifully with my worldview.

I'm a tremendous fan of Marty Seligman's positive psychology movement. Instead of studying the sick and learning to bring them up to normal, study the healthy and help them surpass themselves. David Cooperider's Appreciative Inquiry takes the positive approach to organizations. Don't start with problems, for that limits your perspective to solutions. You can do better. Tell stories about successes and opportunities.

When I was depressed, and that encompasses several decades of my life, I lapsed into what Marty calls "Learned Helplessness." I knew things would not turn out well, so I held back on trying. It's a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you expect crap, that's what you'll find. Now that the veil of depression has lifted, I'm optimistic about the world and my place in it. Trite though it sounds, the Army's copywriter was on target with "Be all that you can be."


Blogger Jeff said...

Jay - thanks for posting this. I just loved the quote from James Carse's book, and will need to read through Bill's site in more detail. I wrote about your post @ http://idea-blog.blogspot.com/2005/07/infinite-games.html

7:28 PM  
Blogger msa said...

infinite games resound with an idea i posted recently: www.stanford.edu/~adityams

2:14 PM  

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