Marshmallows and Prototyping

I just watched a new video from the TED 2010 conference by Tom Wujec and since I used to work at a company that sold software prototyping solutions, I just had to share these ideas in a blog post.  Tom is a Fellow at Autodesk and is passionate about sharing his ideas around design thinking, visual collaboration and team creativity.

Tom has developed a simple 18-minute experiment called the Marshmallow Challenge to help teams “experience simple, but profound lessons in collaboration, innovation and creativity.” The basic premise is that each team is given 20 sticks of spaghetti, one marshmallow and 36 inches each of masking tape and string .  The challenge is to build the tallest structure that can support the marshmallow on top.

After conducting this challenge more than 70 design workshops across the world, some surprising insights have emerged from the study:

  • Kindergarten graduates do better than MBA graduates
  • Specialized skills plus facilitation skills yields higher success
  • Play and prototyping is essential
  • Design is a contact sport

Comparison of MBA Students vs. Kindergarten Students in The Marshmallow Challenge from Tom Wujec's TED Video

Tom explains that the reason business school students are looking for the single right plan and wait until the end to put their marshmallow on top.  On the other hand, kindergarten students perform better because they build prototypes along the way and refine their results from multiple iterations.

Below is Tom’s 5 minute TED presentation and you can also learn more about how to conduct your own marshmallow challenge by visiting the Marshmallow Challenge website.

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