Video: The Marshmallow Challenge

Which group has a higher success rate in collaborative work: B-school grads, kindergartners, or CEOs?

Watch the video to find out. “Build a tower, build a team,” declares Tom Wujec in this fascinating explanation of why multiple iterations are one key to successful collaboration efforts. Unfortunately, most of our training in strategic planning has taught us to plan-plan-plan, assess options, choose the “best” alternative, and execute on that one idea. Annual budgets are then set, personnel reassigned, and we forge ahead while hoping for the best.

In a dynamic networked world, we don’t have to lock ourselves in to such linear plan/produce models. Rapid try/fail/learn/try again cycles are winning the day. This rapid learning approach seems less forced and more organic to leaders in many cultures.

I’m going to try this Marshmallow Challenge with my teams the next time we have some development time. I wonder what we’ll learn.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0_yKBitO8M

By Ken

Dr. Ken Cochrum (DMin, Bethel University) is Vice President of Global Digital Strategies at Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) in Orlando, Florida. An avid cyclist and aspiring guitarist, he also holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas and a Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. He recently co-founded Indigitous.org, a movement passionate about connecting people to Jesus using digital strategies. He previously served as vice president of Cru’s student-led movements worldwide. He and his wife Ann spent 13 years in East Asia where they raised their two children. Ken blogs regularly at www.onleadingwell.com.

8 comments

  1. This got me thinking about our strategic planning cycle. Perhaps we need to adjust to a much more quarterly based model, to allow for rapid iterations and experimentation.

  2. @Russ Love your idea about more frequent cycles on the strategic planning process. How could we test this with some of the projects we’re currently working on?

  3. The first thing that comes to mind is to only allocate money for 4 months worth of a project and see how far it gets. In that sense, you’d be asking people to make plans four months at a time.

    I could see this being used in any R&D projects that we have oversight of.

  4. I was intrigued with the importance of prototype. So often we roll out a new idea nationally before we have tried and tested it locally, which means that the entire nation is experiencing failure after failure. In a totally flat organization, like a kindergarten work group, that works well. Participants learn to trust each other as they fail, pick up the pieces and try again.
    In a hierarchical system, it doesn’t seem to work as well because the members of the organization experience failure as a result of someone else’e decision.

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