Minecraft and Leadership

by Alli Polin on February 15, 2013

What can Minecraft teach us about leadership?

If you’re unaware of the current obsession with Minecraft that is sweeping the world you are either living under a rock or don’t have a family member under the age of 20.  It’s a big virtual sandbox where players create worlds, only limited by their imagination, out of Lego-like 3-D cubes.  I went to the Minecraft site to see if I could see any stats and I was shocked!  In the past 24 hours 12,178 people bought the game and 9,320,370 people have bought the game since it was made available in May 2009. 

My children would play Minecraft forever if I’d let them (which I will not).  Watching their obsession has led me to consider the value of the game beyond spatial awareness as I try to convince myself that their brains will not going to turn to mush.   It struck me one evening, while my son gave me a tour of his virtual world, Minecraft has a lot to teach us about leadership.

According to Wikipedia:

Minecraft is an open world game that has no specific goals for the player to accomplish, allowing players a large amount of freedom in choosing how to play the game.

Minecraft and Leadership Require:

Vision

Leaders need to know where they are heading to find the path to achieve their goals.  Having a clear vision guides all decisions.  In Minecraft, players do not build in isolation but instead create communities that interconnect with great detail and complexity.

Understand and Communicate WHY

My children not only can tell me what they’re building but why they’re building it.  They understand the landscape and hidden challenges and marry them with their goals.  They aren’t just building cool structures, they are telling a story.   Every leader needs to be able to clearly and succinctly communicate their why for decisions and actions too.

Creativity

Without creativity, the status quo wins out over innovation every time.  Creativity not only finds new solutions to old problems but also a willingness to see what’s possible.  In Minecraft, players aren’t limited by reality but instead can craft creations that stretch the limits of the imagination.

Focus

Minecraft creations can be built quick and dirty or with a ton of detail and layers.  Leaders know that focus, time and effort is what leads to success, not band-aid solutions.

Try & Fail & Try & Succeed

Leaders are willing to put their necks out there and try something new.   Learning comes not only from the attempt, but also from the failing.  Minecraft players build crazy creations that sometimes wobble, lean and collapse.  Instead of meeting the failure with an oh-well, it’s met with an ah-ha as they try again.

Even the two modes of play will be familiar to most leaders:  Survival and Creative. 

Survival

When leaders work in survival mode they can truly feel like they are under attack.  Leaders with a survival mentality are constantly reacting to what’s happening without really moving forward.  Reactive mode causes leaders to either try to control the situation or rely on self-protection.  It’s impossible for the team and organization to flourish in survival mode.

Creative

In creative mode, leaders not only take responsibility for the vision, but also engage, inspire and connect with true authenticity and self-awareness.  Leaders that embrace creativity are willing to take risks and support the team on the road to innovation.

I’m not a Minecraft player but I appreciate that my children can look at an empty landscape without being paralyzed by possibility and indecision.  Like leaders, they know what it means to have a vision, take action, and create something new and complex.  These are skills  that every leader needs to develop and grow for long-term success.

Are you a fan of Minecraft or do you have family members that are as obsessed with it as mine?  What leadership lessons do you see from the world of Minecraft?

(Photo credit)

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Mertz February 15, 2013 at 7:16 am

Alli,

My younger son was hooked on Minecraft and, about two years ago, he came to me asking if he could go to Minecon, the Minecraft user convention. Normally, I would have said no, but I thought it would be a good surprise to say yes. So, we went.

I was truly amazed. There were 5,000 people there from the age of 5 to 80. It was grandparents playing with grandkids; it was teachers interacting with students. It was teens standing up to the developers and asking when they were going to fix bugs in the program. It was an enlivened, connected community!

There are good lessons happening within the Minecraft community – from leadership to community!

Jon

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alli February 15, 2013 at 7:24 am

Amazing! Sounds incredible! I know that there are Minecraft clubs in schools and people building and sharing some incredible things. What a fantastic experience for you and your son! It really is more than just about the game. Thank you for bringing to light another important side of the Minecraft experience!

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Ande Lyons February 15, 2013 at 8:31 am

Allie!

Thank you for this wonderful post – you have eased this Mom’s furrowed brow. My guys have played this game with a huge posse of kids for years. It’s hard nowadays as parents to see kids hangout online vs. in the basement/den/garage of someone’s home. I wonder if they’re missing something we had as kids when our parents would say “be home when the streetlights come on!” John’s comment above is true – they’re online playing with fun people of all ages!

As much as I’ve worried about their “addiction” to Minecraft and other online games, I also see huge benefits. Their brain cells are getting stimulated b/c they are constantly strategizing, prioritizing, problem solving, leading and team building…at a very fast pace.

My 15 year old loves a military game he plays with up to 10 guys. As much as I cringe when I hear some of the “killing” terms, I admit he makes my heart sing when I hear him use all the above mentioned skills to create a successful outcome… while laughing and bantering with this group of guys. Lots of testosterone bonding time, too.

Off to share your post with all my the Moms of teens in my life – MUAH!

@AndeLyons

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alli February 15, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Ande!

I appreciate you! My guys are much younger but still, they would choose Minecraft (or Ninjago battles) over playtime much of the time. When they come home from school sharing stories of how they strategized and shared with other kids I start to see the value. It’s incredible how leadership, planning and strategic thinking skills are called upon by many of these games! It IS bonding and it IS connection and a community of enthusiasts. I’m excited to see what this future generation of leaders and innovators have in store for us!

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Jon R. Wallace February 15, 2013 at 10:40 am

I’ve watched my 13 year old collaborating on line with participants from several countries at the same time, giving thoughtful advice and helping others achieve their goals. It was a very humbling example to me of how sometimes those who are younger exhibit more servant leadership practices than those of us with age, experience and titles.

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alli February 15, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Jon, I’ve been reluctant to let my kids really get into the global collaboration piece of it but I can tell that it’s coming soon. I do see my son and daughter stop what they are doing to help each other an their friends. They have a constant willingness to share lessons learned so everyone can succeed. It is a joy to see these kids show up as servant leaders! I sincerely hope that their leadership continues to shine into the future when they are the ones with the titles. Thanks for sharing your experience too!

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minecraft skin editor March 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm

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Alli Polin March 14, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Appreciate that from a Minecraft expert like yourself! Thanks!

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