Tom Wujec, an innovative practitioner of business visualization, presents some surprisingly deep research into the “marshmallow problem” — a simple team-building exercise that involves dry spaghetti, one yard of tape and a marshmallow. Who can build the tallest tower with these ingredients? And why does a surprising group always beat the average?
Some of the best performers for this problem are the recent graduates of kindergarten verses recent b-school graduates whom actually perform the worst. Is it becase “everything you ever learned, you learned in kindergarten moment”? No, actually most kindergartners will take the time to experiment and play. They will build prototypes to see what works and what doesn’t. Where as, business thinkers look for that one “right” solution.
In summary, the marshmallow challenge helps identify the hidden assumptions. It provides a shared experience, a common language, and common stance to build the right prototype. Design is a contact sport. It demands that we bring the best we have to the problem to move from an “uh oh” moment to a “ta da” moment.