The Marshmallow Challenge

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A Marshmallow Challenge might seem to be an unlikely topic for this blog, but it is a topic on today’s Ted Blog that is amusing and stimulating.  It is a talk by Tom Wujec and it is all about collaboration, innovation and creativity.  He is a Fellow at Autodesk and is the creator of the marshmallow challenge.

He describes it as one of the fastest and most powerful techniques for teams to improve their capacity to generate fresh ideas, build rapport, and master the skill of prototyping – all of which lie at the heart of team innovation.

The challenge is disarmingly simple.  The teams get 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of masking tape, one yard of string and one marshmallow.  The rules are straightforward:

  1. Build the Tallest Freestanding Structure: The winning team is the one that has the tallest structure measured from the table top surface to the top of the marshmallow. That means the structure cannot be suspended from a higher structure, like a chair, ceiling or chandelier.
  2. The Marshmallow Must be on Top: The entire marshmallow needs to be on the top of the structure. Cutting or eating part of the marshmallow disqualifies the team.
  3. Use as Much or as Little of the Kit: The team can use as many or as few of the 20 spaghetti sticks, as much or as little of the string or tape. The team cannot use the paper bag as part of their structure.
  4. Break up the Spaghetti, String or Tape: Teams are free to break the spaghetti, cut up the tape and string to create new structures.
  5. The Challenge Lasts 18 minutes: Teams must not be holding on to the structure when the time runs out. Teams holding the structure will be disqualified.

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If you explore the website, you will see some of the creative solutions that teams have used around the world.

The Marshmallow Challenge has produced no less than 390,000 items and the TED blog post today will encourage many more.  It will be interesting to see, given that competition, how high this blog post can rise for a Google search for ‘Marshmallow Challenge’.  We will keep you posted.

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2 thoughts on “The Marshmallow Challenge”

  1. An interesting read and find this Marshmallow Challenge. Perhaps I might have encountered it but in another name or a variant, but it really has a good lesson on working together as a team. This is gonna be a good exercise for bi-monthly team buildings we have in the office. Can also I republish those rules for the Marshmallow Challenge?

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