Knowledge and LO & Infinite Game LO30872

From: chris macrae (
Date: 01/05/04

I came across a couple of sections of a British Standards report on
Knowledge Management & culture which fascinated me, and I was
wondering if you know of other bookmarks where this sort of
perspective is amplified

1) Systems Thinking & KM

Although you might look at the organisation as a number of parts there
is an entity, which operates as a whole. The cohesion can be used to
great benefit, but requires expanding views to move away from simple
cause & effect management to looking at the way in which the
organisation exhibits a system in its own right. One might draw
parallels with macro= and microeconomics, with local & global
environment, or Newtonian & Quantum mechanics. In all these instances,
both are valid and both provide descriptions relating to different
scale of perspective.

There has been a profound change in the way organisations are
operating. This change in the balance of power has rendered control
over the organisational system less and less feasible. In 1900 it is
estimated that about 95% of the people employed in the UK could not do
the job as well as their bosses could. This gave rise to the famous
Peters' principle that all managers rise to the level of their own
incompetence. Now today its estimated that 95% of the people employed
can do their jobs better than their bosses can. You cannot manage them
the same way. When you're managing subordinates who know how to do
what they're doing better than you, you don't manage what they do, but
manage the way they interact...

If you look at organisations that fail or have trouble, it is
frequently what they didn't do, not what they did. Yet, if you are in
an organisation where the culture dictates that "making a mistake is a
bad thing", then to maximize personal security the best strategy is to
minimize the changes you bring about.

If we want to change, we have to start to record mistakes and
systemically learn from them. That's part of systemic thinking. But it
also explains why most organisations are reluctant to change.

If you see anyone acting purposefully, that action is grounded in
concepts they think of as sensible action. Ideas lead to action, but
in the end that action is the source of ideas , so there is a
continual cycle between the ideas and the action. It is that dynamic
cycle which is the driving force behind system dynamics.

WHAT IS THE INFINITE GAME - to improve play rather than to win the

In the Finite game who wins and who loses is the whole point of
playing in the first place. The spectators, the money markets, the
media want a result. It would be hard to imagine a more unpopular
outcome than an announcement 'both sides won'. The sheer contrast
between winning and losing is what the excitement is about. The media,
which had a high old time extolling winners and building them up, now
enjoys itself even more in breaking them down.

The infinite game as its name implies, consists of many Finite Games
connected to each other. You can knock out losers from one or more
rounds, then invite them back to teach them better plays. Winning can
be widely shared if knowledge from winner-take-all episodes is widely
acknowledged and widely distributed. The long-term includes many
short-term events and contests whose outcomes informed all the players

The main contrast according to Carse between Finite and Infinite game

Purpose is to win versus purpose is to improve the game

Improves through fittest surviving versus Improves through game

Winners exclude losers versus winners teach losers better plays

Winner-takes-all versus winning widely shared

Aims are identical versus aims are diverse

Rules fixed in advanced versus rules are changed by agreement

Rules resemble debating contests versus rules resemble grammar of
original utterances

Compete for mature markets versus grow new markets

Short-term decisive contests versus Long term


"chris macrae" <>

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