Four Leadership Lessons We Learned from the Marshmallow Challenge
We recently planned and facilitated a 3-day senior leadership meeting for a client with over 100 leaders from around the province attending.
During the meeting, we invited the group to participate in the Marshmallow Challenge – in which small groups of 5-10 people attempt to build the tallest freestanding structure using 20 pieces of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, and 1 yard of string…to balance 1 marshmallow on top…in 18 minutes.
Here are my leadership lessons from the Marshmallow Challenge:
1. Have a clear shared vision. I saw that the teams that did exceptionally well in this challenge spent time at the beginning developing a shared understanding of what they were trying to achieve (before jumping into action).
2. Make mistakes (just make sure it’s a new mistake each time). The best performing teams learned iteratively. They didn't wait until the last minute to try putting the marshmallow on top, there was no ‘ta-da’ moment. Rather, they tried something, tested it, learned from what did or did not work the last time, and tried again. The winning team called it their ‘collaborate-fail cycle’.
3. Skills and experience matter. It’s not about age, but has more to do with #2 above – bringing forward the knowledge gained from past ‘mistakes’.
4. Believe that you will succeed. In medicine, it’s called emotional immunity – the protective effects of a positive outlook on one’s well-being. During our debrief after the Marshmallow Challenge, the high performing teams consistently noted that they knew they were up to the challenge and felt that this positive attitude contributed to their success.
Thanks to everyone who participated for a fantastic experience!