With excitement, the three teams of four PresenTenseLA Fellows set off to work. The tallest tower built was more than four spaghetti strands tall, but only one - my team’s - remained upright, while supporting its marshmallow. (We won!)
This challenge made headlines at the 2010 TED Conference, where presenter Tom Wujec shared a startling fact. Of the more than 70 controlled Marshmallow Challenges he has facilitated, who performed worst, of all sample groups? Recent MBA grads. Who performed best? Kindergartners!
To watch Mr. Wujec’s TED talk, click here.
Why do MBA grads do so poorly at this challenge, and why do small children do so well? Two reasons, according to Mr. Wujec’s analysis:
1) Kindergartners begin with the end in mind.
Adults neglect the marshmallow until the very end. The kids start with it on top, and build from there, never losing sight of their goal.
2) Kindergartners try and fail and try again.
The start by building the simplest version of their structure, subsequently increasing in complexity.
The message our PresenTenseLA trainers wanted we fellows to take away from this challenge and the accompanying TED talk, was the value of prototyping, as during the course of this next month, we’ll set out to prototype our ventures; to offer the simplest version of it to a group of non-relatives. But, something else struck me even more forcefully than the value of prototyping.
In his talk, Wujec comments that the kindergartners not only build the most successful structures, they also build the most interesting ones. They are creative! Free from fear of failure, they build, and build and build again, unaware of a proscribed right or wrong way of doing it.
So, as I set out to prototype my venture, a spiritual mikvah and spa, I will work to cultivate the joyful freedom I imagine filled the kindergartners as they built their marshmallow structures. I will think outside of the box. I will keep the end in mind. I will build, joyfully!
Rabbi Sara Brandes is working to build the Neshama Center and Mikvah, a spiritual spa, in Los Angeles. She blogs weekly at www.thejewishbody.org.