You think you have been working hard without results? Try “The Marshmallow Challenge.” The Marshmallow Challenge is a design exercise. In eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top.
The Marshmallow Challenge takes place at corporate retreats all over the country. The teams are usually made up of four people and they jockey for power or to avoid power in the group, plan and then build their marshmallow tower. At about sixteen minutes they panic, put the marshmallow on top and the tower falls over. Why? Why did they get no results even though they worked hard?
Tom Wujec at Autodesk talks about who has been successful at The Marshmallow Challenge and what groups have not been so successful. Recent business school graduates have the least amount of success. Recent Kindergarten graduates are one of the most successful groups.
Here are some reasons why the Kindergarten graduates show results for their hard work. If you follow these advices, you will soon see results from your hard work.
1. Take naps.
Regular rest is the key to showing results. When a person is tired and stressed their mind is not at its best and the effective ideas are not flowing.
When Tom Wujec ran The Marshmallow Challenge with most adult groups they built the entire structure before putting the marshmallow on top. They usually placed the marshmallow on top at the two minute warning and then the structure collapsed, and there was not enough time to fix it or create a new plan.
When the Kindergarten kids built their towers they would build one within the first few minutes and put on the marshmallow. The tower would collapse. Then they would build a different tower. It would collapse. Then another tower and this one would stand. The Kindergarten kids put the marshmallow on top throughout the eighteen minutes, building prototypes until they found a tower that worked.
3. Revise your plan.
The building of prototypes allowed the Kindergarten kids to see what would and wouldn’t work so they could revise their plan. The adult groups didn’t allow themselves enough time to revise their plans.
4. Be patient.
Eighteen minutes is not a lot of time, but it is enough to build a marshmallow tower. I had a very successful sales manager once say to a very successful sales person I know that most sales people stop calling on a prospect too soon. They underestimate the time it takes to build trust. You have to repeat something seven to fifteen times before someone remembers the message you are sending.
5. Focus on the marshmallow.
The key piece is the marshmallow, not the tower. Have a specific written out goal you are trying to achieve. How can you produce results if you don’t clearly know what you are trying to achieve.
6. Believe in the tower.
You have to trust your tower, after prototypes and a plan, can hold the marshmallow. Successful business people have to believe in their product. If you sell the product you have to believe it is good for your customers. If you manufacture the product you have to believe it serves a purpose. You can be the best salesperson in the world and if you don’t believe in what you are selling you will never be successful long term.
There is an old poster I used to see in people’s offices at work and at my dentist office that read, “Everything I Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten”. Maybe that poster is closer to the truth than I realized when I first saw it.
Featured photo credit: http://photopin.com/ via Michelin