In his book, The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek reminds us that, in the history of remarkable achievements, great things tend to occur “because large groups of people, united in common cause, chose to collaborate with no clear end in mind.”
We do these things, Sinek goes on to say, “not because of the promise of an end-of-year bonus”, but because “we felt like we were contributing to something bigger than ourselves, something with value that would last well beyond our own lifetimes.”
Many of us will have had the good fortune to experience this state of positive flow on more than one occasion in our careers; moments in time when we wake up inspired to go to work, feel deeply connected to our colleagues, safe in the knowledge that our voice is heard and our opinions are valued… all in the endeavour of contributing to something truly good.
According to Sinek, it is precisely in these moments that we are playing the “Infinite Game”.
But how does it happen? How do we intentionally design these kinds of moments or at least provide the conditions for them to spontaneously occur?
One way to answer these questions, of course, is to read the book. But I have been drawn this week back to one clue in particular that Sinek provides when he speaks about the importance of working in Trusting Teams.
There is a difference between a group of people who work together and a group of people who trust each other. In a group of people who simply work together, relationships are mostly transactional, based on a mutual desire to get things done. This doesn’t preclude us from liking the people we work with or evening enjoying our jobs. But those things do not add up to a Trusting Team.
Jess Eddy makes a similar point in an article on the difference between transactional vs transformational work. She suggests that those experiences of work that we are likely to look back on and view as “time well spent” are those where we find ourselves doing good work with great people.
There’s another clue when Sinek reminds us of what Brené Brown once said about trust-building.
Trust is the stacking and layering of small moments and reciprocal vulnerability over time.
This resonates and is a reminder that, ultimately, so many of the experiences that we create for people around us arise from what it is that we are consciously or unconsciously “stacking and layering”; that it is in these “small moments” that we make a positive or negative difference in people’s lives.
So if Simon Sinek walked into our school today, I’d like to think he’d ask us at least three questions: What’s the “something” we are contributing to? Are we a group of people who work together or a group of people who trust each other? and What are you going to do today in the small moments that make those around feel like their day was time well spent?
If we can answer these questions, then I think that there is a chance that our transformational work is already underway.