Podcast Ep. 89: Fortnite is Teaching Your Kids Agility

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Episode Description:

On today’s episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast, Dan Neumann is joined by his AgileThought colleague, Quincy Jordan. Dan and Quincy are diving into the world of online video games – specifically “Fortnite,” the popular battle royale, sandbox game – and drawing comparisons between it and agility.

Having watched his son play “Fortnite” over the summer, Quincy saw how he remotely communicated with his friends online to come together as a team, seek out an objective, collaborate, and go after that goal. In this episode, Quincy not only highlights many of the similarities between online gaming and having an agile mindset, but he also shares some of what we (and our kids) can learn from playing these sorts of games, and how we can further improve our agility.

Listen on Google Play Music

Key Takeaways

  • The overlap between an agile mindset and “Fortnite”/other online games:
    • In the game, you play in teams and the players coordinate and collaborate remotely through headsets
    • In both agile teams and “Fortnite,” you need to come together as a team, seek out an objective, collaborate, and go after that goal
    • In the game, you gather raw materials and architect right on the spot to create structures such as barriers or ramps (similar to the agile concept of solving problems with the resources you have at your disposal)
    • They do team working agreements (i.e. before they start, they set out their goals and agree on what they’re trying to achieve)
    • When their objective is at risk of reaching its goal (similar to a Sprint goal), they reevaluate quickly, make adjustments, stay adaptable, and continue without losing sight of the goal
  • What “Fortnite”/other online games can teach us about having an agile mindset:
    • The team collaboration in “Fortnite” emphasizes teamwork and shows how having a “hero complex” does not get you to your goal (you have to work together, one person cannot do everything)
    • In “Fortnite,” your character can lose energy and needs time to recuperate. In this scenario, a teammate will ask another for help to spot them as they recover, which is very similar to how high-performing agile teams should behave (i.e. be transparent with one another if you need help)
    • There’s a collective recognition that you win and lose as a team
    • The teams in “Fortnite” are self-organized and not afraid to take risks and fail fast – this is key to growth
    • They always stay focused on the overall objective, which is a crucial mindset piece for agile teams to have

Mentioned in this Episode

Quincy Jordan’s Book Pick:

Transcript [This transcript is auto-generated and may not be completely accurate in its depiction of the English language or rules of grammar]

Intro: [00:03] Welcome to Agile Coaches’ Corner by AgileThought. The podcast for practitioners and leaders seeking advice to refine the way they work and pave the path to better outcomes. Now here’s your host, coach and agile expert, Dan Neumann.

Dan Neumann: [00:16] Welcome to this episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast. I’m your host Dan Neumann, and joined today remotely by colleague Quincy Jordan, how are you doing?

Quincy Jordan: [00:27]
Good. How’s it going, Dan? Happy to be here once again, always glad to be on the Agile Coaches’ Corner.

Dan Neumann: [00:33] I enjoy having you here and I know you’re still remote and you’re, you’re taking advantage of some of the flexibility to literally work from anywhere so glad you’re still able to, to hop on the internet. Uh, hopefully it will keep serving us well.

Quincy Jordan: [00:48] Yes, brought all of my equipment with me.

Dan Neumann: [00:51] And did, did Fortnite come with you, which is actually related to the topic of our podcast we’re going to get into, did the Xbox come with, or the PC? I don’t even know what people play Fortnite on. I’m an old man at this point.

Quincy Jordan: [01:03] So the reason that I am remote, um, is because of our son. And so if our son is with us, yes, you better believe Fortnite us with this. So, uh, yeah, we’re, we’re, you know, out in California, uh, doing some things for him that’s needed for some medical treatment stuff and, uh, yeah, so he has his, his, uh, X-Box with him and he has been heavily engaged with fortnight, uh, and his friends and they’re actually preparing for a competition. And so before coming here, it took some time out to just kind of observe, uh, he and his friends play because I wanted to see, and I actually even, um, kind of thought about, you know, before, when I just saw some things when he was playing and I somewhat tried to play with him a little bit. Um, and you know, but when I realized there were too many buttons and I was like, ah,

Dan Neumann: [02:05]
I got to use both hands. It’s not a joystick button on the corner, please

Quincy Jordan: [02:10]
But, um, but yeah, so, you know, when I observed him playing before and, uh, and I just noticed how they were interacting and, you know, he was playing with some of his friends from school and then he was playing with some of his friends, um, that he had met, you know, in our, you know, different travels, you know, over the summers and, you know, and so forth. And, um, and some people that he’s never met before, um, and the way that they play reminded me so much of really having a pretty solid agile mindset. Uh, and it just brought to mind just how far along, you know, their generation will be, you know, well, beyond where we’ve been, how so many of these things that we’ve had to adopt a mindset for, they won’t really have to adopt it because they would already have it. It’s very natural for many of them to, uh, come together as a team to seek out an objective as a team to collaborate as a team go after that goal. Um, so yeah, I mean, we can talk about it, you know, in, in more detail. Uh, but it’s pretty impressive. You know, I would advocate for anyone if you’re a child or friend. I mean, there are plenty of adults that you know, play these games as well. Uh, just kind of observe and you’ll see a lot of similarities between an agile mindset and Fortnite, or I would imagine any of the other online gaming.

Dan Neumann: [03:55] Yeah. My mind was, was Halo. Although when I started playing the game, my brain was just fully consumed with just navigating and shooting and collecting stuff. There was no leftover brain cells for coordinating with other people or talking about being objective. Occasionally an expletive would come out. I’m pretty sure. But, um, so Fortnite is, um, it’s a, it’s a shooter type of game, right? Running around a map, trying to achieve some objectives.

Quincy Jordan: [04:26] It is however, there is a lot more to it than I must admit, you know, initially I thought it was just another, you know, shoot them up game, you know, as well. And actually I kept him from playing it for quite some time, uh, since he’s only 14, but once he got a little bit older, then I started letting him play it. Uh, but it is, you know, very much so that, um, you can find raw materials in the game to construct things. So they go through the game, they find these raw materials, they break up the materials and then they collect them. Then they literally pull out like a sketch pad and they start architecting what they want to build. And as they are designing it, they start building it, you know, right on the spot. Uh, and so they may build something because they need to get up to a certain height or they need to, you know, um, have shelter barrier, you know, something like that around them. Uh, but the concept of I need to solve this problem and there are resources at my disposal. I can use these resources, take them to devise a plan, execute on my plan and build something from these resources. That concept is a really good concept to have in a game. Uh, one of the other that I notice and you mentioned as far as, you know, kind of a shoot ’em up thing, uh, which does also happen, that is part of the game as well. Um, but when, so when I observed observed he and his friends play, they played in teams. And so they’re collaborating, you know, on their headsets, they’re all remote, unlike, you know, how, when we would play with, you know, other games when were younger, uh, and we would be in the same room, well, they are, you know, remote and wherever they are all parts of the world or parts of the country, wherever, wherever the people are, they’re playing. And so during the game, one of the things that stood out to me was I saw a player start losing their energy. And so when they start losing their energy, there’s like a fuel kind of drink or something like that, uh, that they can drink in the game. But before they get to that point, they have to kind of recuperate and in, I hope, you know, for the fortnite, um, experts out there that are saying, historically.

Dan Neumann: [07:08] Yeah, somewhere, somewhere, somebody in a chair, just having a coronary right now, this is butchering it. Right.

Quincy Jordan: [07:21] I should’ve included my son on this call on this podcast.

Dan Neumann: [07:23] That’s right. That’s right. He could fix this. So there’s the energy drink and you need it. There’s some protecting of this person while they realize that.

Quincy Jordan: [07:31] So the other team, so the other team mate would say, Hey, protect me, protect me, uh, you know, while I’m recuperating or, you know, whatever it was. Um, and the person would convey to them, they’ll say, you know, Hey, yeah, go over here in this Bush and I’ll protect you and, and make sure no one gets to you. And it just made me think about how high performing agile teams or, or Scrum teams should behave. Where if there’s a teammate that knows they’re going to be in a state where they cannot contribute the same way that they normally would. So maybe they’re going to be on vacation. Maybe they’re not feeling well that day. And they have to take a day off. Uh, maybe they’re being pulled in another direction because of, you know, something that was outside of their control and within the team. And they couldn’t do their normal contribution. And so in the gang, they’re very transparent about this with each other. Like, no, one’s trying to hide that they can’t do their part. They’re not trying to cover it up. They’re very transparent about it. Hey, I need help. And when I think about the, the teams that I’ve coached and the individuals that I’ve coached, um, the mentor before and how so many of us, and I’ve been guilty of this myself, you know, where we don’t want to quite reveal that we need help. We may not want to call out for help. Uh, that’s not a problem for them, you know, when they’re playing this game. Uh, and so it’s helping to build that mindset early on that, which is really an agile mindset, you know, in many ways, uh, that, Hey, it’s okay to be transparent. It’s good to be collaborative. Uh, and more importantly, if we do these types of things, we will more, we will be more likely to reach our objective by working together than working alone and by looking out for each other than trying to be the hero. But we all know about the hero complex that comes into teams oftentimes, and agile teams are no exception to that. Uh, but they don’t seem to suffer much from that hero complex, you know, while they’re playing Fortnite.

Dan Neumann: [09:59] That’s interesting. So there’s, there’s agreement to what the objectives are super valuable with agile teams and then, uh, effort collectively to achieve those. I would imagine, uh, at least with the games sort of like this, and I’ve played the single person hero, isn’t going to get very far, they’re going to run into a meat grinder on the other side. Um, And it also, then it’s, it’s a collective recognition at the end, you know, you win and lose as a team. Uh, and I, I don’t know, are there also, uh, individual rewards of some kind, rewards this wrong is the recognition of individual contributions as well? Let’s say, because I think that the can be important. Yeah.

Quincy Jordan: [10:41] So it depends on how you look at it. Alright. So everyone, there’s a feature in the game where, you know, you can do your Fortnite dance, whatever that dance is. Uh, so there are different types of dances that you can do. Uh,

Dan Neumann: [10:56] I think we should have agile team dances, like appropriately, so HR wouldn’t wouldn’t yeah. Maybe like celebrate your, your Sprint goal by busting out some moves.

Quincy Jordan: [11:08] That’s right.

Dan Neumann: [11:12] I submit your videos, says share your videos online.

Quincy Jordan: [11:16] Yeah. Yeah. But it’s, um, it’s so they even have these competitions. Alright. And so in these competitions, I mean, in, these are it’s whoever’s playing, you know, many are kids, uh, many are adults, you know, so it’s whoever playing, uh, but it’s a very even playing field in the sense that whoever has the best skill level as a team wins, and what I thought was interesting just, uh, yesterday he was telling me, Hey dad, if we win, we’ll win $600 each. And it was, his emphasis was on each, it wasn’t on, I will win $600. It was as a team. If we win, then we’ll get $600 each, which, you know, man, you know, I wish I wish I had games that I have the ability to do that when I was a teenager, um, over the summer or even during school, you know, that it makes a very strong argument for your child to want to be able to play a game that they’re able to learn and develop, you know, this type of mindset while also, you know, potentially being compensated at the same time.

Dan Neumann: [12:50] Yeah. I mean, e-sports is becoming quite a, quite a thing with some money behind it, especially when you can’t gather in person and in large groups, but that did make me, um, as you were talking about that, I got to think about the matchmaking that happens in a lot of these games. And, uh, most of the games have some concept of really trying to match participants to, um, a place where they have some chances of either winning or losing. They’re not putting super powerful against incredibly weak and vice versa. Cause if you’re losing all the time, you’re going to quit. And if you’re winning all the time, it gets boring really fast if it’s too easy. Um, and, and that got me thinking about on agile teams, do we put them in a place where they have a chance to win and or lose? Are we trying so hard to be risk averse at times? Not, not we as coaches, but in some organizations sometimes I feel like they want to plan and plan and plan to the point where they feel like there’s no chance of falling short. And in reality, I think there’s a lot to be said for giving them a challenge, turning them loose and, um, you know, providing support where needed and backing off where appropriate. So the challenge is appropriate.

Quincy Jordan: [14:04] Absolutely. Yeah. That’s and that’s one of the things that I noticed as well. Uh, you know, while, while he and his friends were playing, uh, in Fortnite and, you know, they were able to, um, self-organize like, there’s, there’s no, there’s no one putting the teams together, you know, per se. So they put their own teams together. Uh, and now there isn’t to the best of my knowledge, there isn’t a, the only standard that separates teams in terms of, let’s say skill maturity, uh, is purely based on that. You know, if, if you are, if you are mature, if your skill level is high enough as a team, then you advance to another point, which would make one assume that the others that you would play against are also maybe a similar skill level. Uh, but if you, and again, this is, you know, from what I could observe, um, if you are within your team, you’re self organized, uh, which is really good and they’re able to advance as a team together, they are able to, uh, go through, let’s say like mock trials, um, to where they can just practice and practice and practice to get better and then actually go into a competition. Um, so there’s just so many aspects that I just, you know, just realize and install as being very similar to agile teams that we work with, you know, that we’ve experienced, that we see and, you know, our clients and in our every day, you know, with the feedback loops and, uh, you know, failing fast, you know, you know, that whole concept. Um, so all those things seem to be really innate. And, you know, again, I just kind of can’t express enough how, how impressed I was with the skillset that it is building that will cause really like the whole next generation to be able to work in a collaborative manner remotely together. Like it won’t really matter. Uh, and they don’t have many of the same either biases or things that, you know, may impede them like our generation, you know, and before. They just get on the game and they formed their teams. The other thing that they do that I didn’t mention is they do teamwork and agreements. So before they start, they really set out, I mean, they don’t do it in a really formal way like what we might would do.

Dan Neumann: [17:05] There’s no post it notes or, you know, JIRA Wiki or anything like that. Confluence work. So what’s a working agreement out of Fortnite. Like, Hey, here’s the objective that we’re all, we’re all striving for.

Quincy Jordan: [17:19] Yeah, you know, they may say, okay, Hey look, well, you know, they’re, they’re landing on this Island. And, you know, they’ll, they’ll spot out a location that they’re trying to get to on the Island, you know, to achieve a certain thing. Um, and, but the, but the point is they will discuss at the beginning what they’re trying to achieve, and they’ll come to an agreement on what that is. And then I saw them take off to do it, you know, and as that objective, you know, potentially was in risk, uh, of reaching its goal similar to a Sprint that could be in risk of reaching the Sprint goal, they would reevaluate like really quickly and then make adjustments stay adaptable and then continue. Um, so they never really seem to have lost sight of the goal where I see oftentimes many agile teams will lose sight of the goal. Uh, they didn’t seem to get caught up in the weeds and so forth as much like, so for example, I’ve observed agile teams that developers, you know, may get so caught up into coding that they forget, well, the point isn’t to code, you know, the point is to deliver business value. And the point is to solve a problem, um, by delivering that business value. And so when I saw them playing the game, they were able to stay really focused on what the bigger objective was, uh, which I think is an extremely good skillset and mind mindset to have.

Dan Neumann: [19:14] And related to focus. That was one of the notes that I jotted down here, as we were talking, I, my son plays several games and when they’re playing the games actively engaged in it, there isn’t checking texts. There isn’t cruising over to email or Facebook or ticktock or whatever God awful you know, social media platform happens to be the thing of the day. Uh, it’s really focused on the game. And then when I think of a lot of agile teams that I work with, the work’s nowhere near as compelling as, as the game play. And there’s distractions, abound, uh, friction within the company makes it hard to stay focused and to continue to contribute. And I think there’s a lot to be gained there from organizations looking at the way gameplay’s set up to figure out how can they remove impediments to two people, really bringing them wholesales and staying engaged and, and delivering like you’ve said.

Quincy Jordan: [20:13] Yeah. Yeah. And I’m actually interested to see as he continues to advance, um, in gaming to see how it might change some as the stakes get higher. Um, because sometimes that does impact things. Uh, so, you know, I think on maybe one of the previous podcasts I mentioned before, about how so many parents similar to myself, uh, or like, okay, well, what you can’t play on the game all day, you can’t play for hours and hours. You just can’t do that. Uh, and there was a kid who I remember, I think it was in Las Vegas. Uh, so there was like this huge Fortnite competition and the kid won a million dollars. And so the kid’s dad was like, okay, you’re onto something with this Fortnite thing.

Dan Neumann: [21:12]
Yeah, yeah. Maybe this will pay off.

Quincy Jordan: [21:14] Yeah. I was like, you can play. I mean, he was apologetic and everything. He was like, you can play as much as you want.

Dan Neumann: [21:24] You’d mentioned though that it would be interesting to observe the shift in the, for lack of a better word, the fun factor in playing. Is somebody playing it for fun for an escape, or are they playing it for a mastery and perfection in the potential monetary reward? I wouldn’t imagine most people are doing it just for the financial like, Oh, crap. My parents are gonna make me go, you know, earn, you know, the meal playing fortnite. Um, so I don’t think it, that type of reward would destroy intrinsic motivation, much like, uh, some types of rewards can.

Quincy Jordan: [22:02] And, you know, and also like, so do you want to make sure that, that I am representing it properly? So, uh, while they’re very collaborative, uh, they’re very transparent and being open and so forth, you know, they do sometimes. I mean, they’re kids, so they do get a little bit beside themselves. I was thinking about, you know, respect, you know, being one of the core values of Scrum and, uh, and you know, within, within the psyche of a teenager, they are, they are somewhat respectful to each other. Um, you know, of course some of the things that they say, or they get upset, you know, because something didn’t go a certain way and, you know, and so forth.

Dan Neumann: [22:45]
Because they’re still human despite being teenagers.

Quincy Jordan: [22:47] Yes, that’s right. That’s right. Uh, but all in all, I mean, it seems to be a really, a really good way to develop those skills, to develop that mindset. Um, and it’s, I don’t actually know of anything else right off hand that seems to do that specifically around an agile mindset for kids, you know, other, other than that, you know, there may be other things, I mean, I’ve used Scrum, Boris, to use a Kanban board with his chores and, you know, if he has, um, kind of like big projects coming up in school, uh, that may be six weeks off or something like that, you know, we may use Scrum, you know, to try to stay on top of it, you know, that kind of thing. But I mean, that stuff isn’t fun to him, you know?

Dan Neumann: [23:37] Right. It’s still, there’s still, dad’s dad’s framework. That’s getting applied to home life. Yeah.

Quincy Jordan: [23:43] But when he’s, you know, but they’re playing Fortnite or other online gaming, that mindset is there and it’s helping them achieve their goals.

Dan Neumann: [23:54] That’s cool. And I think it’s, it’s an interesting, uh, analogy or metaphor, a place of learning to look at, you know, different facets of the world and see where learning from that can be leveraged for other things. You know, there’s a lot of learning about how the remote teams are collaborating. Like you said, in Fortnite, it’s, you know, they don’t need Microsoft teams for it. Um, actually they may have, they may have, they may be using discord. I don’t know. I know, uh, one of the games I’m involved in, there’s a discord channel for that, for sharing strategies and communicating outside of the game, but just kind of, and then looking for lessons that can be brought back into the business from, you know, in this case from fortnite.

Quincy Jordan: [24:36] Yeah. So definitely interesting.

Dan Neumann: [24:38] Yeah. Well, I’d be curious if, if people are seeing, um, other games or other lessons of agility that are, that are coming back in, but, um, thanks for exploring that today.

Quincy Jordan: [24:49] Absolutely. Yeah. Hopefully it was a good topic for the podcast. I found it of, of interests when I just observed him play. And you said, Hey, I think this might make for a good topic.

Dan Neumann: [25:01] It’s very, uh, and you know, maybe someday somebody will rage quit the Sprint where they just, you know, I might’ve done that. Not in a Sprint, but in a video game, just cause you try to bring your best self, but every once in a while, a little brat shows up.

Quincy Jordan: [25:20]
As long as, as long as we don’t throw the work laptops against the wall.

Dan Neumann: [25:25] I did not throw the only, I dropped a work laptop ones prior to agile thought, but it was not a, it was not a game rage induced dropping the machine. Oh gosh. So how are you finding a finding time to consume anything that’s got you inspired these days and, uh,

Quincy Jordan: [25:43] So I am starting with a measure what matters. So I’m starting with that. Um, so I’ve heard, you know, a lot about it or heard some really good things. Uh, it was suggested to me by a colleague and because they found it so valuable. And so I said, yeah, okay. I’ll, I’ll check that out. So yeah. So I’m starting with that as we speak.

Dan Neumann: [26:06]
That’s very cool. I, and um, that might’ve just been come up a couple of weeks ago from, from one of our colleagues too, so that’s awesome. Yeah. Very good. And kind of focusing in, on some of the OKRs and the background on those. Yeah, for me, it’s um, I’m reading, I’m consuming an audible book for which there is no written book. So it’s, um, Kevin, Hart’s the decision. So overcoming today’s BS for tomorrow’s success. And, uh, it’s kind of interesting. It’s like, I’m like a PG version, or I dunno, maybe R, it depends how many f bombs you got to drop before the rating goes up, but you know, so many motivational speakers are like smiling and, you know, I don’t know they’ve got their thing going and it was Kevin’s gives a little different perspective, a little different twist, but does talk a lot about mindset and experimenting and kind of overcoming fear of failure and not over complicating things before you’ve even tried. So, uh, pretty interesting. It, it entertained me for a several hours of driving on the way up to Northern Michigan here this last weekend. So good. Yeah. Helped the time go by.

Quincy Jordan: [27:16] I’ll have to check that one out too.

Dan Neumann: [27:18]
Yeah, it’s interesting. I keep like, Oh, I want to go highlight that in the book up. There’s no book, so we’ll see. Maybe someday. All right. Well thank you for taking time and joining and sharing Quincy.

Quincy Jordan: [27:29] Absolutely.

Outro: [27:33] This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast brought to you by AgileThought. The views opinions and information expressed in this podcast are solely those of the hosts and the guests, and do not necessarily represent those of AgileThought. Get the show notes and other helpful tips for this episode and other episodes at

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