Playing in the right game

In game theory, the goal of an infinite game is to keep playing the game.

The problem with many infinite games is that some of the players play it as if it was a finite game, one that must be won and ended by them. These players ruin it for everyone else.

Most founders create their companies in hopes that it will last forever. They start with one product or service and, over time, as people and technology change, they adapt to stay in business. They, along with their suppliers and customers, want the company to be there the next day and the day after that. Ethical leaders and E&C professionals can thrive in such companies.

But then some companies go public and allow a new player in the game: the shareholder. With its infusion of cash, this player offers the illusion that it will lengthen the game but it has no intention of playing an infinite game. It is not even playing a long game. If we are lucky, it is playing a 3-month game. Some are playing only for a day. Or a minute. Or a fraction of a second. And they ruin it for everyone else.

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