PepsiCo launches a first-of-its-kind training program using the world’s most popular video game — and it was all dreamed up by an 11-year-old.

 

Playing video games like Minecraft at work isn’t typically something you’d want to be caught doing — but if you’re Marco Rodriguez Tapia, it’s part of your job.

Based in the Netherlands, Marco is the Master Black Belt of PepsiCo’s Lean Six Sigma (LSS) program for Europe, which aims to improve processes and increase productivity at PepsiCo (and in 10 years, has trained thousands of people in nearly 200 countries worldwide).

A key part of LSS training: in-person sessions that use building blocks to simulate real-life situational challenges. In pandemic times, those sessions needed to go virtual. But “five days in front of the camera through Zoom watching PowerPoints was very, very difficult for most people,” says Marco.

Enter Minecraft.

In the wildly popular video game, players work with different blocks to create fully-fledged three-dimensional worlds — a perfect match for Lean Six Sigma training. “The interesting part of this is that we did not have to change the recipes from the in-person simulation when we migrated to Minecraft,” says Marco.

And Marco recruited a true Minecraft expert to build the prototype: his 11-year-old son, Alexander. In fact, it was Alexander who first came up with the idea (and completed the project in less than 30 hours). The two live on different continents, and one of the ways they like to connect is by playing computer games like Minecraft. “We use gaming as a way to understand how the other person thinks,” Marco says (humbly adding, “I always lose”).

It was during one of these gaming sessions, long before COVID-19, that Marco’s son suggested, “Well, if your job is to make people play games, why don't you make them play Minecraft?” Marco didn’t think much of it at the time.

PepsiCo Employee Marco leads a pre-COVID-19 Lean Six Sigma training

Marco leads a pre-COVID-19 Lean Six Sigma training.

Now, PepsiCo’s new digital training program is launching in seven languages. The program, modeled on a PepsiCo warehouse, was developed by design studio BlockWorks based on the working prototype built by Marco’s son. It can be accessed by PepsiCo employees from anywhere in the world. “It shows that you can teach and you can work efficiently by having fun,” says Marco.

As for his son? “He thinks that he is going to become famous,” Marco says with a smile. At 11 years old, Alexander’s not off to a bad start.

 

This is not an official Minecraft product, and is not approved by or associated with Mojang.

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