Dr. IAN CLARK: Why is life an infinite game?

We often see life in terms of winning. There are always winners and losers in sports, and we see business the same way. Donald Trump’s paradigm is entirely in terms of winners and losers, and his entire identity is tied to being a winner, which is why he was unable to concede the election. People with this frame of reference tend to be very competitive and when they “win” they trumpet their success. Success books are usually written by “winners”, so they should not be taken too seriously, as they contain an automatic bias because they lack the perspective of “losers”. As they say, “History is written by the winners.”

While the drive to be a winner is commendable, and there are many inspiring stories of those who rose from poverty, overcame the odds, and achieved great success because of their drive to win, there is another way to look at life. While sports games are limited, life is an infinite game in which we sometimes win and sometimes lose. This also applies to business. it’s a long game. From 1981 to 2001, Jack Walsh was the CEO of GE, the world’s largest industrial conglomerate. He wrote several books, one of which is called The Winner, and was named the CEO of the Century because he took a historic company and grew it to become the most valuable company in the world at the time. Jack was a brilliant leader who saw business as an end game; there were winners and losers, and as for him, if his companies weren’t at the top of their industry, they were losers that had to be sold. He also had a policy of firing the bottom 10% of poor performers and promoting the top 10% of top performers.

He hand-picked his successor, Jeff Immelt, and handed him a $410 billion company in 2001. Fifteen years later, when Imelt was fired, the company’s value plummeted and then collapsed. So Jack Walsh was the winner and Jeff Immelt the loser. One gets a clearer picture if one looks at business in terms of cycles rather than winners and losers. Thomas Edison was the founder of GE, and GE was seen as an industrial conglomerate that made light bulbs, appliances, power plants, and jet engines, but what people didn’t know was that it was also a huge financial company. Jack Walsh realized he could use GE’s triple-A rating to borrow at extremely low interest rates and make loans at high interest rates. It was a license to print money, and he loved it, but to do it he was borrowing short-term and lending long-term. Walsh was known for consistently delivering on his quarterly earnings year after year, as he was able to dip into his piggy bank of financial services to hide any underperformance on the industrial side. Under Jeff Immelt, the 2008 financial crisis hit and GE’s financial model collapsed. So not only did GE suffer huge losses, but it ended up leaving the most profitable part of the business. Later, its energy division’s revenues declined, and its profitable cable TV and movie studio NBC Universal was sold, leaving GE a shadow of its former self.

Immelt wasn’t a great leader because he didn’t like bad news and didn’t listen to his team, and while Walsh was brave, he could listen and be convinced to change his mind. So Immelt made a lot of bad decisions, but the seeds of TPP’s demise were sown by Jack Walsh. Its focus is on sustainable short-term profits (often at the expense of human capital) so that the stock price continues to rise, ignoring long-term risks. Perhaps if he had seen his leadership more in terms of playing an infinite game, rather than winners and losers, he could have protected the business for decades to come.

Life doesn’t have to be about winning at all costs. Winners and losers come and go, but what should not change is that we remain decent human beings. Business books are now being rewritten, and instead of emphasizing winning as a short-term return on capital for investors, they are returning to the importance of human values ​​such as compassion, being purposeful for the individual, being part of a great team, and creating an environment that brings out the best in people. give: Life is not just about winning at all costs. How many of us think Donald Trump is a good role model for our kids?

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