Meetings And Marshmallows

At a recent leadership team meeting we were asked to complete a task. After being divided into teams of four we were given a paper bag containing twenty uncooked spaghetti noodles, one yard of string, one yard of tape, and one marshmallow. The goal? Work as a team and create a free standing structure with the marshmallow on top. The only rules? You had fifteen minutes; the tallest standing structure wins; and the marshmallow must be on top.

Here’s the result from my team:

From the table to the marshmallow was twenty-two inches at the end of the time limit. We lost by two inches. However, ours stayed standing until almost the end of our day long meeting. There may or may not have been sabotage involved. The investigation is still pending.

The project was from a TED talk:

I’m sure there were many reasons we did this to start our day together. After watching the TED video together we learned that the most successful teams usually do more building and less thinking. They spend their time building one prototype after another instead of talking and strategizing. There is some of that, but it’s done throughout the building process.

We were able to immediately apply this lesson because there are some things we are trying to build into our sales and customer service teams. In order to do this we will need trial and error; one prototype after another. The thought and strategy, generally speaking, is done. We need to do it.

Another interesting point: the most successful teams at the exercise are usually kindergarteners. Why? They just start and keep going. They also usually start with the marshmallow and build up instead of building he structure and then trying to place the marshmallow on top. Like we did. You see the result.

That’s another lesson I took away. Start with the marshmallow. Figure out what your marshmallow is: a sales goal, a client experience, running a marathon, a happy marriage, whatever. Start with the marshmallow and build up from there.

Whether you answer this question online or not, I hope you take some time to figure out what your marshmallow is.

What’s your marshmallow? Do you have several? What are they? Where and when are you going to start building?


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