Grown-up games

Playing is an essential activity for human development. By playing children develop skills from the simplest to very complex ones. But the role of playing is not limited to childhood, on the contrary, it transitions to adult life and it continues to be part of human life until the end. I dare to say that the one who forget to play from time to time, give up a great personal development tool.

For example, last week I rediscovered a game that I loved to play a few years ago: Settlers of Catan. It’s a game with relatively simple rules, aiming to colonize an island with roads, villages and towns. The island is composed of hexagons with resources (wood, brick, iron, wheat and sheep) and the island’s banks have commercial ports that offers certain benefits. At each round one player rolls the dice and all players can get the resources they have in the neighbourhood, if their number on the hexagon correspond to the dice.

Settlers of Catan stimulates the development of certain skills and I want to emphasize two of them, with significant impact on your career or business success. The first one is positioning. In the game, it is essential that you position the first two settlements in such a way to have a better chance in collecting as many resources as possible. The second element is the development strategy that you choose. Depending on the position you’ve managed to occupy on the board, you must choose the right strategy to effectively exploit the resources you get. Common sense things but with major implications.

Let’s see first how these two aspects can be translated to career and business. What is the meaning of positioning and what are its implications? Like in the game, positioning involves choosing the place where you will perform your activities, where you will bring value. Of course circumstances will greatly influence the positioning but, depending on how well you chose your position, you will be able to better use your own resources: time and skills. This will determine, in large measure, the success in many areas of life. Why so few manage to position themselves correctly? Three key elements are necessary for proper positioning: understanding the environment, understanding resources (skills) and goal setting. The problem is that none of the three is simple. It would take too long to discuss each one in detail so I will devote some future articles for detailing.

I was saying that the second key element of the game is strategy development. Depending on the position you are in, proximity of resources and commercial ports and depending on opponents movements you must choose the game strategy that will allow you to maximize the resources that chance offers your. That’s exactly the same in real life. Most of the times you can’t control the environment, you can’t control what people do and you can’t control the events that occur along the way. But, depending on the context and on your goal, you have to develop a strategy. You must choose the path that will lead you from the point where you are to the goal you want to reach. But this is not easy. On one hand it involves a constant effort of researching and understanding the environment and, especially, a constant effort to refine your goal. Why refining your goal for? Because of two reasons: the first reason is that there will always be forces (outside or inside of you) that will try to derail you. These forces range from laziness, to well-intentioned people with different viewpoints, to malicious persons who don’t wish you well. The second reason is that as you approach the goal, the details become clearer and it is necessary to elaborate your goal. It’s like you see a city from a distance and you decide to get there but when you get closer you see that it is composed of streets, buildings, parks and it is necessary to precisely choose the destination.

I briefly described two skills that can significantly impact our careers or business and that we can learn by playing. Sure that these two skills can be learned in different ways, but experimentation in real life will certainly involve a much higher price. So, happy playing!