IBM and the Mainframe - the Infinite Game. What do you think?

Christian Raetzsch , Vice President, Client Technical Teams, IBM Systems for Cloud Platforms Asia Pacific

 It is more than 20 years since I joined IBM. I joined as IBM Sales Representative, I was very excited, and although I had no idea how my IBM career would evolve I somehow was convinced that I will be with IBM for a long time, and be part of a very exciting company, in a fast changing world, full of possibilities.

But why was I assuming I would be with IBM for many years? Over the years different pieces of this puzzle came to mind, and my thoughts and overall view on this evolved. I thought about the team I joined, the brilliant people I worked with over all these years, the IBM culture, IBM as an employer, as well as some other strong positives.

Last week I saw this Simon Sinek video on YouTube about the "The Finite and Infinite Games of Leadership”. 

Simon compares how businesses operate with game theory, types of games played. I realised that this approach offers interesting new perspectives, including why I am still with IBM today. Simon explains, and also provides examples, how companies operate, either like a player in a Finite Game, or like a player in an Infinite Game. Basic principles are very different for these two types of games, as is the focus players have, and consequently outcomes are very different, depending on the type of game you play.

Many believe the most iconic technology IBM launched is the IBM Mainframe, a family of extremely reliable and secure Systems. Competitors have either tried to copy the Mainframe, or have declared it dead again and again, over many years. A few years back, in 2014, IBM mainframes celebrated their 50th anniversary, and today these iconic High-End Systems are stronger than ever, packed with leading technologies, and offer unprecedented scalability for commercial transactions. IBM Mainframe systems have always demonstrated how security built into a family of systems “by design” results in security features and protection against cyber threats at highest levels, and it has been proven for as long as IBM Mainframes exist that no other system or platform can even come close.

IBM customers love these systems, and the mainframe compute capacity installed continues to grow year after year.

Watching Simon’s video, I realised that the unprecedented and lasting success of IBM Mainframes is the result of the IBM Mainframe unit consistently applying the leadership principles of the Infinite Game.

The infinite game is all about constant refinement and improvements, consistently taking something to the next level of perfection, with every new cycle or new release. This approach is also known as Kaizen. The Finite game, in contrast, is characterised by focussing on short term goals, tactical execution, and to win over a competitor. Focusing on winning over a competitor in many cases means to address gaps, catch up, and closely monitor what competitors do.

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