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Mark Pearl

 

Today we did the marshmallow challenge. For those that are not familiar with this challenge, it is a fun way to get teams to experience simple lessons in collaboration, innovation and creativity (that’s what their website says) and I would agree with them.

So the exercise works as follows…

You are given

  • 20 sticks of spaghetti
  • one yard tape
  • one yard string
  • one marshmallow

The purpose

Build a structure that is as high as possible with the marshmallow at the top within 18 minutes that does not collapse within (sub rules, the marshmallow cannot be broken into smaller pieces)

What we found when doing the exercise

At first we had several different ideas on how to build our structure. The problem was they were all generally good ideas and because of the limited time we could have used up all the time just deciding on what was the best idea – which would have been a problem because we still needed time to implement whichever idea we decided on – and then what would have happened if the first idea failed?

So, after 8 minutes of discussion we started implementing a idea – and with 30 seconds left before our 18 minutes were up we had our first structure. It was alright, but a little rocky, with 10 seconds to go we adjusted the structure to be supported by a base string that did the trick. This is what we ended up with.

Spagetti Marshmellow

Our Retrospective

I think we almost fell into the trap of over thinking the problem – if we had spent just one extra minute discussing the issue we would not have finished out structure. In hind sight I think we should have started building sooner and this would have given us more time to tweak our solution – as thinking up the ideal structure was only part of the problem – making a deliverable was what we were going to be measure by.

What others have learnt from this exercise

Prototyping Matters

From the website the normal process was –> Orient –> Plan –> Build –> Tada (Oh Oh) 18 Minutes

The problem with this was you run out of time.

Interestingly they got different groups to perform this exercise, Recent Business School Graduates performed worse when doing this exercise and Kindergarten School Graduates performed consistently well because they would Prototype –> Refine

There are other lessons exposed when doing this exercise – check the website out for more info.

Posted on Thursday, September 22, 2011 8:13 AM Agile | Back to top


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