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Cohort 12 participated in a design workshop facilitated by Dr. DeMoss called the Marshmallow Challenge as a component of their Management & Leadership course.  This challenge has been conducted by tens of thousands of people in every continent, from CFOs of the Fortune 50 to students at all levels.  For more information on Challenge, refer to The Marshmallow Challenge Ted Talk.

Teams of four had to build the tallest free standing structure in 18 minutes out of the following ingredients:  20 spaghetti sticks, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string and a marshmallow which needs to be on top of the structure.

Team members were able to use as many of the 20 spaghetti sticks or as few and as much of string and tape as needed to create the structure.  They also had the option of breaking up the spaghetti sticks. No one was allowed to support or touch their structure at the end of the challenge.

After the teams were formed, the atmosphere for the next 18 minutes remained intense and each team was engaged in problem solving. Some students were brainstorming ideas, others prepared some sketches of how they wanted their structures to look like and others rolled up their sleeves and began building the spaghetti sticks into structures.

Members of the winning team: Yoshi Takamura, Marissa Zerbo, Eduardo Vinocur and Heitor Bover from Cohort 12

Members of the winning team: Yoshi Takamura, Marissa Zerbo, Eduardo Vinocur and Heitor Bover from Cohort 12

As the teams engaged in creating their structures, the noise and enthusiasm reached a fever pitch, with five minutes to go most teams were topping their structures with the marshmallow that added additional weight to their structures. Some teams were happy with their structures and had to make a few adjustments while other team’s structures completely collapsed.  There were 2 out of 4 surviving free standing structures in the room.

As the countdown of the 18 minute challenge ended, Dr. DeMoss used measuring tape to measure the height of the surviving structures from the table top surface to the top of the marshmallow to determine the wining team with the tallest structure. The winning team members who built a structure 26.5 inches high were:  Yoshi Takamura, Marissa Zerbo, Eduardo Vinocur and Heitor Bover.

As easy as this activity initially seemed, it was actually very challenging because team members were forced to collaborate and problem solve very quickly. However, it was a fun team building exercise and it was very neat to see the progress of each group as well as the different building strategies that each team followed.

The purpose of the exercise was to reveal very interesting lessons about the nature of the collaboration, understanding how different personality types work together and how each team member contributes diverse skills to the table. The cohort also learned that the teams that incorporated trial and error and experimenting from the start of the challenge did better than the teams that spent time planning and trying to get the structure right from the first time. This indicates that successful organizations foster learning driven environments and risk-taking dynamics rather than ideal solutions/strategies. These students leveraged their learnings of the Myers Brigg’s Testing Instrument and their preferences to best assist their individual teams to reach success!

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