play, minecraft, leadershipWhile I have written a lot about how the CEO Mindset supports better management of stress and relationships with others, the inclusion of play has been neglected. Certainly downtime can include meditation and breathing, reading a good book or chatting with friends and family. And yet, play is an underrated way of refreshing yourself and even honing skills you can use in your leadership and management.

Lessons from Minecraft

My kids have been playing Minecraft for some time now and they talked me into playing with them. While I have not built anything  even close to elaborate, I am enjoying playing with my kids as well as creating in my own worlds. If you are not familiar with Minecraft, it is a sandbox game in which you can create your own structures and even worlds by playing by yourself or with others. You use resources and tools to do everything from building a simple house, farming, exploring, magic and, in certain modes, fight monsters. It gets as sophisticated as your imagination allows.

The one thing I have discovered in every Minecraft world that I have played is that preparation is everything, particularly in Survival mode (in Survival mode, you have to find or craft what you need or want and monsters are an ever-present danger). Here are some of the things I’ve noticed while playing the game:

  • Timing- With only 10 minutes of daytime, you have to think about what you are going to do and when. Nighttime is dark, even without the monsters on. Like time boxing your business quarter’s objectives, you have to think about your overall strategies and goals and act accordingly.
  • The unexpected- It is a very dynamic game with all sort of things moving in the background. Sometimes the unexpected is hazardous while other times it is serendipitous. Like the business environment, you have to remain alert for both opportunities and risks.
  • Limitations- Minecraft works in a system of blocks so you have to build things in squares and rectangles. There are also the moments when you don’t have enough of a particular item. Small to mid-sized businesses have to think around limitations such as limited capital and other resources frequently.
  • Awareness of inventory– Knowing what supplies and tools you have makes building and exploring more manageable. It also supports the planning process of when to go get more of a particular resource or craft new tools. This aspect is applicable to your business, even if you are leading a business that offers services.
  •  Imagination- In Minecraft, you start in a brand-new world and you can make it into anything. Perhaps you want to build a simple farm or an elaborate palace. Either way, it starts with a vision of what your world will ultimately be. Even in established businesses, there is a moment when it is time to renew or change direction. The vision in your strategic plan starts in your imagination.

Simply put, Minecraft can be another way to practice skills you use in your business without the responsibility that comes with leading a business.

Minecraft and beyond

It is easy to underestimate how important play is to our ability to lead others. On the face of it, you might think that it is a waste of time. It does not make money nor does it get mundane tasks done. It does not even seem terribly inspiring. However recent trends and research are highlighting that adults need to engage in plain old fun. There are concerns that we are creating more emotional difficulties or handicapping innovation by limiting how much our children and adults play. You may have even heard of the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” We sharpen our mindsets and abilities while having fun. If we go beyond Minecraft and other video games, we really see that play (sports, recreational activities, hobbies, etc) is a cornerstone to how leaders manage their power stress, understand their world, test themselves and let their imaginations run wild.

The business environment offers us many challenges. Building our ability to be flexible, creative and healthy is crucial to effective leadership.  Play, whether is it Minecraft or something else, is another valid way to nourish the CEO Mindset and lead our organizations better.

 What have you learned from Minecraft?

What kind of play do you engage in?