My great passion is sports, which I often compare to business. However, what I’m most interested in is how sports dynasties function – the Boston Celtics in basketball, the New England Patriots in American football, or Barcelona in soccer. What is that extra thing that keeps them competitive and winning over the years? They must be doing something right to maintain dominance in a game that has clear rules, and seasons with fixed start and end dates.
At first sight, the reason would appear to be more financing, better resources, or a privileged position. But this is far from the truth. The secret to a winning mindset is the unique culture that sports dynasties cultivate, and above all, the idea of playing an infinite game. A game that doesn’t end after one or more seasons but lasts longer. Much longer. Several generations longer. The same is true in business, as Simon Sinek says in his book The Infinite Game. By understanding that business is not a race from one quarter to the next and that pursuing short-term goals never leads to long-term success, we can start thinking about business differently. Instead of being obsessed with competition, we can focus on the future, looking for a direction to take as an organization, innovate and adapt. The sooner we accept that we are only competing against ourselves, the easier and more effective our work will be in the long run. We need to constantly challenge and ask ourselves how we can become a better version of ourselves. For ourselves and for others.
In achieving this, the team atmosphere plays a key role. In business, this is the corporate culture. Company cultures can vary enormously, as can the norms. Large teams and organizations have a better understanding of what it takes to advance, increase commitment and maintain a shared focus on achieving long-term success. Leadership thus plays a special role in the infinite game. But as strange as it may sound, achieving results is not the responsibility of the leadership. The leadership team is instead responsible for creating the right environment for the entire business ecosystem to thrive and achieve the right results in the right way. Leaders make sure that people in an organization feel safe, have confidence in their own judgment, and the courage to fulfil their potential. They ensure the constant and lasting intellectual, professional and human development of all stakeholders in order to create a multigenerational legacy and have a positive impact on society.
This is one of the reasons why the acronym ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance), which encourages companies to assume greater responsibility towards society, the environment, their employees and users, has recently gained attention in business. The good news is that sustainability is also increasingly endorsed by owners, stock exchanges and the world of finance. We are increasingly recognizing the value of shifting from a finite to an infinite business mindset. I believe that every decision, investment or strategy in this direction will bring significant benefits to both companies and society. So be brave, play the infinite game and build winning dynasties.
Lovro Peterlin, Managing director, A1 Slovenija