What does a video game like Minecraft have to do with project management?
A lot more than you might expect. It is, after all, a game all about creativity and collaboration. And it can teach you a great deal about how to lead, motivate, and streamline your team.
Minecraft is a phenomenal game.
Who would have thought a simple java game could ever enjoy such far-reaching, explosive popularity? Who would have expected a game about playing with digital Lego could find uses ranging from the educational to the scientific?
Not surprisingly, there’s a lot you can learn about Minecraft from a project management perspective, especially if you’re in a leadership role.
Here are four insights to glean from it.
1. Everyone Has Unique Strengths
One of the many beauties of Minecraft is that you can choose whatever playstyle suits you best. For that reason, when a group of friends begins playing cooperatively on a new Minecraft server, something curious happens. Each player settles into a routine and contributes to the group in their own way.
One player might be a skilled builder, while another might enjoy Minecraft’s combat. One player might be great at planning their base’s layout, while another might prefer searching for resources.
Just as each player on a Minecraft server has things they’re good at, so too do your team members. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.
As a leader, it’s your job to figure out where everyone’s skills lie and assign your teammates accordingly.
2. Passion and Enjoyment are the Best Paths to Hard Work
As anyone who has spent any amount of time playing Minecraft will tell you, it’s a game in which it’s easy to get lost.
There’s a sense of accomplishment in finishing a build or finding a resource you need. Moreover, the pursuit of those goals is entertaining – exploring one’s creativity, particularly in a digital sandbox like Minecraft, is fun.
That enjoyment and the passion that a good leader can inspire in their team are very closely linked. Your colleagues and subordinates should be happy to be working together. They should love what they do, and feel inspired to give their best.
And if they don’t, it’s your job to figure out why. Most commonly, it’s because employees don’t feel a sense of ownership and agency. For whatever reason, they don’t feel as though their efforts matter.
3. To Tackle Big Projects, Break Them into Smaller Tasks
Let’s say a player wants to build a stone fortress in Minecraft.
Here are the steps:
- The player must first create the tools needed to build that fortress – in this case, a pickaxe.
- Next, they need cobblestones.
- Then they must smelt the cobblestone into stone.
- Finally, the player must combine the stone into stone bricks.
Looking at the project as a whole, it seems like an overwhelming amount of work. Yet people still do it. That’s because Minecraft makes it easy to view a large project as a series of individual tasks.
A player isn’t necessarily thinking about how much stone they’ll need to finish their keep. They’re tackling the project one step at a time. They’re breaking it into smaller steps.
Similarly, when your organization is engaged in a major project, don’t treat it as a singular entity. Instead, break that project up into smaller, bite-sized tasks, each of which can be easily handled by individual team members. Their small contributions will eventually add up to a larger whole.
4. Let Your Team be Creative – They Might Surprise You
I’ve already touched a bit on the importance of agency and ownership – but that’s only scratching the surface.
The biggest draw of Minecraft by far is the creative freedom it offers players. When it comes to what you can build, the sky’s the limit.
Not surprisingly, there are some downright incredible builds floating about the web. People have recreated the entirety of fictional worlds such as Westeros and Middle Earth. People have built space stations, urban city centers, and beautiful, sprawling wildlands.
In short, unrestrained, unrestricted creativity can have incredible results. As a project manager, give your team ownership over their work – provide them with the freedom to experiment and innovate. You might be surprised at the results.
One of the most important leadership skills you’ll ever possess is the capacity to learn and the ability to look at scenarios or software that have little to do with leadership on the surface but still offer valuable insights.
Minecraft is one such piece of software. Even if you don’t play it, there’s a lot it can teach you.