18 minutes. 18 strands of spaghetti. 1 marshmallow and 1 meter of sticky tape provide the resources for one of the most well known team building exercises, The Marshmallow Challenge.
The first task for me during the introduction to the task was to describe what a marshmallow was, as they are relatively unknown here in Kenya.
The challenge is heavily used within team building and I was first introduced to it during my time in the Air Training Corps, to improve communication skills within a team.
There are several instructions that each team must follow:
- Build the tallest freestanding structure
- The entire marshmallow must be on top – the marshmallow cannot be sliced and used to hold the spaghetti together
- The team can use as much or as little as possible of the given resources
- Break the spaghetti and tape – the teams are allowed to break both of these resources
- The team has eighteen minutes to build their structure
Over the past week I have given the task to two separate groups, delivering it to ten people in total. The two sessions we have delivered this week have been based around the Business Model Canvas, the ‘River of Business’ showing the route we shall be taking over the next five weeks and then the Marshmallow Challenge and problems that they could face.
One problem the majority of the groups faced was that their structures flopped after the eighteen minutes and we used this to tie in with the ‘River’ that we had been teaching. It has been proven that children have the greatest amount of success in that they have standing structures after the time. The main reason is because they test their structure using the marshmallow at a number of heights, whereas older groups over think the structure and don’t touch the marshmallow until the end.
We used the example of the children using the marshmallow throughout and related it to how we wanted the groups to work over our five weeks. We used the marshmallow in two senses, one pretending that it was the entrepreneurs’ consumer and they should look after them from day one and then used it to describe the risk of their projects.
In regards to risk I described that it would be better for them to test their ideas at regular intervals at differing heights. Using the marshmallow on a structure with a low height, using low resources would allow them to see if the idea would be worth taking to the next level. In their businesses it is important to use their resources as effectively as possible to see whether or not their idea which they are going to pitch for is viable, as in Kenya resources are limited in comparison to the UK.
I am going to try and test the entrepreneurs again in the coming weeks with the same challenge to see if they have learnt from their mistakes and use this to relate the overcoming problems.