Categorized | Workplace Management

The Marshmallow Challenge

In this TED video, Tom Wujec explains the Marshmallow Challenge and why kindergartners perform better at it than CEOs or business school grads.  Wujec focuses on it as a design process, but it really applies to any business situation.

Basically, The Marshmallow Challenge gives teams some sticks of spagetti, string, tape and a marshmallow that needs to be supported by the structure.  The tallest structure wins.  It’s one of those fun, team building excercises.

But Wurjec’s analysis of many different teams reveals something innate in how we approach achieving goals in the business world.  The reason why most business school grads perform below average is that they tend to plan meticuolously, execute hastilly, and then deal with a crisis (fallen marshmallow) with no time to fix the problem.  CEOs perform better than average, but still below the Kindergarteners.


Kids create many more prototypes and allow themselves to fail.  No one is jockeying for leadership and they are used to playing.

When was the last time you said “Let’s try that and see what happens.” or “Let’s give ourselves some time to play around with concepts before we commit.”

Many times we try to emulate children’s play habits as a way of relieving stress.  But here it seems that there is a very real business case for trial and error play with no real plan.  And another interesting point?  Participants who are offered a hefty reward universally do worse than those who are offered nothing.  Sometimes a big prize only causes more stress induced failure.

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Tim McPherson

By Tim McPherson

Tim McPherson, President and COO for Nesco Resource, has over 27 years of experience in all facets of the Staffing Services Industry.

One Response to “The Marshmallow Challenge”

  1. Esteban Scarver says:

    A round of applause for your article post. Really Great.


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