Marshmallow Challenge: More On Group Process

18 May

Last week, you may have checked out the TED link to the Marshmallow Challenge (7 minutes) (build a tower – build a team).  I don’t much care for warm-up games in meetings, but this is one that is worth considering. It comes with an interesting bundle of data analysis on who does and does not do this well. In fact, it has been a topic of discussion in two leadership meetings I was in last week.

It’s always fun when data on performance show that kindergarten grads are the best at this whereas new Biz School grads struggle.

The best take-away from the analysis is the power of iteration in a group process such as this one.  However, because the folks who did the analysis were not expert on management or organizations they missed a feature equally as important as iteration.

Heterogeneous groups do better than homogeneous groups. A mix of people with different perspectives is likely to do better than the opposite.  The easiest-to-see example is gender. Mixed gender groups perform better in most cases than single gender groups (see Managing Task vs. Relationship)

Katzenbach and Smith, in their outstanding HBR Classic “The Discipline of Teams,” begin their rigorous definition of teams with “A team is small group of people with complementary skills who…”

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