Why is that the U.S. military won all of the battles in the 1968 Tet Offensive (125 North Vietnamese attacks and 125 North Vietnamese defeats) and yet we lost the war in Vietnam?
Why do big corporations buy back their own stocks rather than use the money to create new products?
Why are major tech companies laying off thousands of workers?
The answer to all these questions comes down to short-term thinking — a finite mindset, according to Simon Sinek in his 2019 book, “The Infinite Game”. The opposite of a finite mindset is an infinite mindset, or thinking for the long-term good. Infinite mindset looks to do what is right for people and the planet rather than focusing on profits, CEO salaries and pleasing shareholders or U.S. weapons manufacturers.
Why did the U.S. military lose in Vietnam? The answer lies in the 1968 Tet Offensive. These battles altered the North Vietnamese leadership’s goal of using guerrilla warfare. The full-scale frontal attacks failed, killing up to 60,000 of North Vietnam’s soldiers. In fact, during the entire period of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict, the U.S. won most of its battles.
The effect of the Tet Offensive is that U.S. public opinion turned against the war. Many Americans became convinced that the war was unwinnable. They were right. Thinking about winning and losing battles was not the issue for North Vietnam. They wanted to be free of major power control. The Vietnamese had fought the Chinese for over 900 years and had finally driven them out of their country. The French were driven out in about 100 years.
Thinking about winning and losing is finite thinking (Think about the differences between Putin and Zelenskyy regarding the war in Ukraine). No matter what the costs, infinite thinkers will endure and adapt while finite thinkers will eventually fail.
Business, according to Sinek, is also an infinite game, just like fighting for independence. Companies like General Electric or Kodak innovated and adapted until they got leadership that played the finite game.
Adam Smith was an infinite thinker and creator of modern capitalistic thought in his 1776 book, “Wealth of Nations”: “In Smith’s philosophical history the primal moving agency is ‘human nature’ driven by the desire for self-betterment and guided (or misguided) by the faculties of reason …. The first is how a system of perfect liberty, operating under the drives and constraints of human nature and intelligently designed institutions, will give rise to an orderly society.”
According to Sinek, it was 1976 Economics Nobel prize winner Milton Friedman who changed the perspective in America in the 1970s about the goals of capitalism.
Friedman’s Doctrine, in stark contrast to Smith’s philosophy, reflects a finite mindset — “an entity’s greatest responsibility lies in the satisfaction of the shareholders”. .
That’s why the December 2017 Republican tax cuts benefited mainly the super wealthy and the large corporations. They had used their vast wealth to buy off and own members of Congress who then passed laws to benefit the elite 1%.
Friedman’s Doctrine is the cause of bad decisions on the part of CEOs. Their goal is to make the quarterly and yearly profits impressive. Their salaries and benefits are directly related to a finite mindset. In the same way, stock buybacks increase quarterly profits.
That’s why we have an increasing gap between the super-wealthy 1% and the workers. As a reaction we’re seeing the rise of unionization in this country. Friedman’s capitalism is heartless, caring only about profits and benefits to the super wealthy.
This came because conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the Citizens United v. Federal Commission case of 2010 that corporations were individuals, guaranteed free speech (campaign contributions in enormous amounts).
Those conservative justices were infected by Friedman’s self-centered doctrine. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “the decision has helped reinforce the growing sense that our democracy primarily serves the interests of the wealthy few, and that democratic participation for the vast majority of citizens is of relatively little value.”
Why are IT workers being laid off in large numbers? The answer is because the CEOs care about their profits more than they care about their workers.
Milton Friedman’s philosophy has brought about the rise of autocracy as a long-term effect of a finite mindset .
Sinek’s “The Infinite Game” opened my eyes to the dangers we are facing today on many fronts. If you want to understand the big picture, read the book. If you want to play the infinite game in your own life, you need to understand the differences between finite and infinite mindsets.