< Return to Quick Notes

“Build a Tower, Build a Team”

September 14, 2010

In 70 workshops across the world, Tom Wujec gave small teams 18 minutes to build the tallest freestanding structure they could …

TEDU2010_Tom_Wujec__Marshmallow_Challenge_2010_02_09_final.003using 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of tape, a yard of string, and a marshmallow.

This seemingly trivial challenge produced quick, relatable insights into drivers of productive collaborations.

For example, it showed the value of prototyping:

  • Teams that oriented themselves to the challenge and roles, planned and built their right answer were ineffective.
  • Teams that created quick, successive prototypes, applying what they learned from each iteration were the most effective.

Tom’s data also showed the importance of

  • Including process-oriented team members (CEO teams with executive admins were more effective than CEO-only teams),
  • And combining a high stakes prize with “how-to” knowledge. (Just offering the high stakes prize decreased performance, offering the prize and insights into the importance of prototyping increased performance.)

Prototyping is a more readily accepted approach in some work environments than others. You can keep it simple and scrappy, collecting responses to rough drafts of your ideas and using what you learn to improve each new draft.

It’s a potent form of active learning that builds innovation mindsets and skill sets by

  • Encouraging curiosity,
  • Uncovering hidden assumptions,
  • And helping teams think, feel and work in new ways.

Could it be a more effective approach to something you’re working on today?

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment

You must be Logged in to post a comment.