Playing the 'Infinite' Game

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I’m starting this letter from seat 7F on Southwest Flight 1989 from Chicago to Nashville; unfortunately, I don’t live or work (regularly) in either city. Why am I here? That’s a great question. Technical answer: meetings for an exciting, upcoming project we’ll announce in January—meetings that I can’t exactly remember the specifics of right now. I have the details scribbled in my notebook, but since that is zipped into my bag, which is crammed by my feet and guarded by my wobbly, cramped tray table that’s already balancing my suddenly gigantic-feeling laptop, my miniature cup of coffee and a nearly empty bag of pretzels (not a bad breakfast for a 6:15 a.m. flight), and, well, I’ll figure out the logistics part of this trip when I land. 

 As I’m sure has been the case for many of you, 2019 has been a whirlwind of growth, change and action here at Ratchet+Wrench. (You’ll see plenty evidence of that from us as the calendar shifts to 2020.) And it’s calm, albeit uncomfortably tight, moments like this that can serve well as a pause for reflection. 

    Our main feature this month is about advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) and the business implications they present for your operations (“The Age of ADAS,”). Associate editor Tess Collins does a great job of breaking down four critical questions every shop owner should ask themselves before jumping into performing work on these systems—or any aspect of a vehicle that may impact them. It’s a must-read, and it hits on an important narrative that bleeds into nearly every issue of this magazine: Adaptation is a necessity for long-term success and sustainability. 

This is where the “reflection” part sets in. I recently read Simon Sinek’s new book, The Infinite Game, and if you haven’t read it (or heard of it), I can’t recommend it highly enough. The profoundness of this book (to me, at least) isn’t in the illuminating of some brand-new concept, but Sinek’s ability to state clearly the ideas and visions many of us have, ideas that are often difficult to put into words. Here’s the overall premise: There are two different types of “games,” finite games and infinite games. Finite games have a known set of rules, clearly defined players, and a tangible distinction between winning and losing. Infinite games, like operating a business or leading people, do not have a true end point. Succeeding in an infinite game means focusing on an ultimate vision, a “just cause,” as Sinek puts it, and making decisions based on the long-term quest to push closer and closer to that cause. It’s the difference between pushing for a monthly car count goal of 200 vehicles (a finite game) or pursuing the quest to ensure safe, reliable transportation for those in your community (an infinite game). Yes, those finite games are important, ultimately, in pursuing that infinite goal, but it’s the infinite mindset that allows you to stay motivated, focused and making decisions that allow you and your team to adapt and stay relevant as industry landscapes shift.

Read the book. Sinek explains it much better than I just did. But here’s the takeaway I wanted to share: Find your “just cause” and make it the focus of what you and your team do every day; believe in it, own it and pursue it. That way, the next time you’re planning out 2020 goals, or pouring over financial statements late at night, or even sitting on a packed morning flight to Nashville, you’ll have an easy answer to this question: Why am I here?

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