Build A Tower Build A Team

Build A Tower, Build A Team

So I’m sitting in my office at home thinking about my next blog. I’m struggling. I’ve put it off now for two months with the usual excuses. It’s the holidays. I’m traveling too much. There’s an impending blizzard. My kid is in the school play. I’ve got to get my hair dyed. All valid, but not really. At the heart of my procrastination is inspiration—or lack of it. So I decide to check out my favorite Ted Talks.

One of my favorite speakers is Tom Wujec. His talk on The Marshmallow Experiment got me thinking about teams, teamwork, and collaboration. The idea is simple; build the tallest freestanding structure with sticks of spaghetti, tape, and a marshmallow that must be put on the top of the structure.

What group did the worst? Recent MBA college grads. Why? They were all jockeying for position, trying to come up with the single “right” answer. The group that did the best? Kindergartners. Why? They don’t care about position; they want to play. This group made lots of prototypes and weren’t looking for the “one” answer. The other groups that did well were those with people who facilitated the process—executive assistants, individual contributors.

Facilitation skills and abilities led to the success of the challenge—not having the single “right” answer. Three tips for this:

• Pay more attention to the process, not the product.
• Skill up. Refine your facilitative ability—listen more than talk. Get curious
• Step back. Let others lead, own ideas, and present their thinking.

Check out Tom Wujec’s Marshmallow Experiment