Last week I held a leadership retreat for my 2011 team at the Utah County Association of REALTORS®. Following introductions, I thought it would be a lot of fun to have an interesting team building exercise. I stumbled across this entertaining and very educational activity called The Marshmallow Challenge. It’s really quite simple, and yet very complex at the same time. You create teams of 4 give them 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of tape, a yard of string, and one marshmallow. You give them 18 minutes to see who can build the tallest free-standing structure using only the aforementioned materials with the “light” fluffy marshmallow at the top of the structure.
Here’s the video of what my leadership team did with their 18 minutes:
We had 5 teams and only 3 ended up with standing structures. The winning team’s tower was about 28 inches tall. This fun and challenging activity raises many questions about how the group dynamic works as well as planning, implementation and especially prototyping. The real trick is putting what appears to be a “light” fluffy marshmallow at the top of weak brittle spaghetti. You see the marshmallow isn’t as light as we think! So the question is what are the hidden marshmallows in your business, your project, your life?
If you want to try The Marshmallow Challenge at your next corporate, leadership, or group event, please visit their site at MarshmallowChallenge.com and get a wealth of information, including a full slide presentation and instructions. You can even view the TEDtalk regarding this challenge and the lessons learned. You’d be surprised to find out that kindergarten students are among the top performers at this challenge. I’ll give you a hint – it’s how they think that makes all the difference!
If you choose to do this, I’d love to hear about how your Marshmallow Challenge goes!