Lessons from Fortnite for Project Management

Fortnite: Battle Royale is the latest viral game sweeping the United States, and the world. There are an estimated 45 million players of the game globally; the game took in $126 million in February 2018 alone, then topped that with $223 million in March…and then broke its own record again the next month at nearly $300 million. This is all the more impressive when you know that the game is free to play – the money earned is entirely by people making purchases within the game.

Fortnite is a first person shooter sandbox game. 100 players are dropped from a flying purple bus (don’t ask…?) on a virtual island. Each player has one goal – to be the last one standing. Kill or be killed, as they say. You start with a pickaxe, but can hunt around the island for better weapons. You can gather materials to build things, and you probably should. Whatever you’re doing, you need to identify what you want to do, then do it quickly. And you need to get ready – anyone you come across is your enemy and will try to kill you.

(I hope none of you are reading this saying “hey, that sounds just like work!”)

It’s a fast paced game – matches rarely last longer than a half hour – and it’s a lot of fun. Any news or updates about the game are reported to Facebook or Snapchat – the recent news that Fortnite is launching their first vehicle in the game (a shopping cart, of course) was covered by Fortune magazine.

The thing about Fortnite is this – there’s no way to really communicate with anyone else. There’s no chat function in the game. You are completely on your own. And, if you haven’t realized this yet, there’s no way to form alliances with other players. The game’s design makes it you versus everyone, with no other options.

(This part might remind you of work.)

There are lessons for any project manager here.

1. The environment of your project will dictate how people work on it. 

Fortnite forces you to play fast, and play selfish. Your team environment can do the same! Ask yourself, constantly, what the implicit incentives are for team members. Is your team designed for collaboration? Or designed to inhibit it? Is your project moving too fast, cutting corners, and missing details? Or is there time to reflect, test, and move methodically? You, as project manager, set the environment – make sure it’s the one that encourages the work needed to succeed.

2. If you’re going at it against everyone, your communications will suffer – and vice versa. 

These two concepts we highlighted in Fortnite are complimentary. Robin Sloan of the Atlantic investigated this aspect of Fortnite exclusively, and reached some amazing conclusions about building collaboration within the Fortnite universe.  The ability to communicate is what allows collaboration – collaboration relies on communication to happen. You’ll never have one without the other! Create communication channels, and make sure they stay open and used! Otherwise, it will be every man for himself.

3. Competition is rewarding, and attractive.

People like this game for this game for a reason! People enjoy competition, challenges, and a chance to prove their skills. As an effective project manager, you want to foster some kind of competition, and even “gamify” some of your operations. It keeps people sharp, invested in their work, and gives you plenty of opportunity to motivate team members and provide feedback. Give your team ways to prove themselves – both to you and themselves – and this will drive them to be more engaged and effective.

4. And most importantly of all: Have fun with it!

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