We’ve talked a little about Simon Sinek’s brilliant contribution to the genre of business and leadership books, The Infinite Game. He lays out 5 different practices that are essential in playing the Infinite Game:
- Just Cause
- Trusting Teams
- Worth Rivals
- Existential Flexibility
- Courage to Lead
Each one of these practices could probably be a book on its own. So, it’s a worthwhile use of anyone’s time to really hone on each of these principles and see how it’s valuable and how to put it into practice. The first one of these is Just Cause. What makes a cause just? What are some examples? How can you put it into practice? We’ll examine all of these questions.
Sinek lays out the following elements of a just cause that are really helpful to keep in mind:
- For something: you are trying to achieve something, rather than trying not to do something.
- Inclusive: utilizes all of your organizational pieces
- Service of others: you serve others rather than yourself
- Resilient: can stand the test of time
- Idealistic: ideals transcend time and change rather than just today’s product or method.
America’s Founding Document: Just Cause for building a nation
In the summer of 1776, America’s founders coalesced to draft a document that would unify the original 13 states. The purpose behind it was to lay out not just the raison d’être for this newly independent nation, but a continuing cause to work towards. Our country was certainly an early adopter of the Infinite Game mindset.
The just cause laid out in the document is essentially the following:
- All men are created equal
- All men are born with natural rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
- Government must be formed with the consent of the governed to facilitate the preservation of these rights.
America’s Infinite Game
Indeed, our country has been playing the infinite game for more than 2 centuries, through challenges and obstacles to help ensure rights and equality for all. If our founders played the “finite game,” they would have probably not made it past the Articles of Confederation. After all, they won their independence from the British and formed a new government. What more was there to do?
It turned out, the commitment to the Just Cause saw them through decade after decade and one struggle after another. They first had to change gears to a more effective form of governance, our modern Constitutional Republic. They fought a bloody Civil War to end slavery, and several more wars to preserve our sovereignty and security. Landmark legislation and constitutional amendments were passed after years of political turmoil to make sure everyone could partake in the American vision of liberty.
It was never easy, and it never will be. The one thing that kept so many going through the fire was that Just Cause of equality and liberty enshrined in that Declaration of Independence. In the wake of the horror and bloodshed of one of the most important battles of the Civil War, Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln summed it up the commitment to Just Cause when he said, “These dead shall not have died in vain…and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Simon says in the Infinite Game that “The true value of an organization is measured by the desire others have to contribute…not just during the time they are there, but well beyond their own tenure.” Our country would never have lasted as long as it has if individuals weren’t looking well beyond their own lifespan in the work they did and the sacrifices they made to further America’s Just Cause.
Finding Your Just Cause
Defining your Just Cause is a process of self-reflection and introspection. There are a few consistent ideas that help many find what drives them to succeed in the infinite game. The ability to do so separates thriving and successful organizations from ones that are just getting by.
Look to the Past
For the founders and their predecessors, they had lived under the oppressive thumb of the British for quite a long time. This gave rise to the passions that led to the Independence movement. If you had asked them, “how did you find your just cause,” they’d probably explain the experience of living under British Rule and how they realized they could do a much better job of governing, ensuring the rights they held dear.
As an organization, you have reasons for why you or others formed a company, and this is a great place to start to find your Just Cause. If you didn’t start your company, you might be able to speak with those who did, or hear stories about them.
Often, you’ll find a sense of purpose, connections to the community, and dreams for the future. These can be helpful building blocks for defining your just cause
Look to Your Customers
Hopefully, you have a pretty good idea of who your customers are, and why they choose you over your competition. If you don’t, now is an excellent time to start gathering some information. Taking some time to speak with your customers not only helps you gain insight into why they are choosing you, but it also makes them feel like valued members of a partnership. Look for consistent and similar reasons that come up over multiple customer interviews.
Look to Others
If you’re having trouble finding a Just Cause, there’s nothing wrong with getting some inspiration from some of the world’s leading companies. We could spend a lot of time exploring the differences between a “mission statement” and a “just cause,” but it’s safe to say a Just cause should be contained in a mission statement.
One of Apple’s most recent mission statements is: “to bring the best user experience to its customers through its innovative computer hardware, computer software, and services.” This should give you a pretty good idea of their Just Cause. They are fighting to create hardware and software that has the best user experience for their customers. No matter the decade, they seem to continue to find new devices or software that people want to buy, because they are innovative and present an excellent user experience.
Put it All Together
Spend some time gathering all of these pieces of information from the past and present. Sometimes, your Just cause will be so clear that it’s not hard to find. Charitable organizations, for instance, have an inherently clear just cause. Other times, it may take trying a few just causes to see what has the best fit and inspire you for the future.
When you find your Just Cause, incorporate it into all of your work. Remind yourself of it when times get tough, and remember that you are playing not just the long game, you are playing the infinite game!
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