According to its official website, the Marshmallow Challenge is “a remarkably fun and instructive design exercise that encourages teams to experience simple but profound lessons in collaboration, innovation and creativity.” Given our propensity for innovation and our love of all things challenging, we decided to try our hand at the challenge at the Christmas party we had just last week.
What is the Marshmallow Challenge, you ask? Well, you take a group of people and divide them into teams of three, completely randomly as to not give one group any significant advantages over anyone else, you give them 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1m of tape, 1m of string, and one marshmallow. In 18 minutes, the teams have to create the tallest possible free-standing structure with the marshmallow on top, and the team that constructs the highest one wins.
And off we went! Let me tell you, building something out of spaghetti sticks is no easy feat but boy is it exciting! In mere 18 minutes you have to brainstorm and finalize the designs, manufacture the entire structure hoping you won’t run out of materiel halfway through the process, and then put a marshmallow on top in a way that won’t collapse the entire thing. And don’t get me started on that timer ticking away, patiently chipping away your dreams of being a part-time architect a few years down the line. Happily, we’re a tight team so the entire challenge ended up being fodder for laughter and joy.
The game is an excellent reminder at how little you really need to get yourself into a innovative and collaborative mindset. There were no squabbles, designers toiled side by side with developers, UX artists with project managers, all working towards a common goal: building something solid with scarce resources in a very limited timeframe. It’s also a great way to foster team cohesiveness and learn new things about the people you work with. Maybe someone has a designer slumbering deep inside him? Maybe someone from management has a knack for structural engineering left over from their LEGO days? Why some groups outperform the others? Is it the combination of individual skills or the right mixture of personalities? It’s a veritable goldmine of inspiration and creativity that requires a minuscule upfront investment: just 18 minutes of your time. Trust us, it’s so worth it.
After a hearty meal and knocking back a few drinks we decided to launch round two. That’s when the real construction fun started.