Video: The Marshmallow Challenge

December 15, 2011 — 8 Comments

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.

8 responses to Video: The Marshmallow Challenge

  1. Nice. Way to push my parameters again. A production style worth experimenting with.

  2. @Mike What about the production style intrigued you?

  3. 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.

  4. @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?

    • 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.

  5. 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.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. 5 for Leadership | Gary Runn - December 15, 2011

    […] Video: The Marshmallow Challenge  This one comes from Ken Cochrum and his blog On Leading Well.  Ken provides a good set up regarding a rapid learning approach versus a strategic planning the way we have always done it.  The video is well worth the watch and this is a blog you should regularly follow. […]

  2. 5 for Leadership (12/15/11) - Gary Runn - August 21, 2012

    […] Video: The Marshmallow Challenge  This one comes from Ken Cochrum and his blog On Leading Well.  Ken provides a good set up regarding a rapid learning approach versus a strategic planning the way we have always done it.  The video is well worth the watch and this is a blog you should regularly follow. […]

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