Build a tower, Build a team. A TED analysis (Blog Entry 4)

Welcome to a TED experience of Tom Wujec. In 2010, M Wujec made a speech about team building. Through a problematic of creating, as fast as possible, cohesion between members of teams, Tom Wujec was inspired by Peter Skillman’s Challenge. The idea is simple: team of 4 try to build the tallest structure composed by a maximum of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string and one marshmallow. In 18 minutes, the 4 people must build the tallest freestanding structure (the marshmallow must be on the top of the structure). If the concept seems to be easy, the reality is quite different. Indeed, the team has to collaborate quickly. For his experiment, Tom Wujec decided to use this experiment and implant it in several situation. From kids to CEO, M Wujec shared his outcome.ls_build_tower_video

The people are globally following a process. During this process they first, oriented their self. Through discussion, people starts to see what each individual can do to achieve the task. Once it is done, they plan the realization. Then, they build the tower during the majority of the time for
finally, admiring the result before the end of the time. However, the “Ta-Da” becomes a “Oh-Oh” when the marshmallow can’t stand on the top of the tower. Who are the people who usually fail? Young graduated  from business schools don’t cooperate, they cheat, they don’t work together. Who are the winners then? The recent graduate Kindergarten school kids. Why then? Business man are looking for the “best” plan without looking for alternatives. On the other hand, the kids build prototypes and see what they can add. Moreover, this experiment shows that only cohesion and collaboration can create the success of the building.

Regarding the team building, we can see that when there are people which are “facilitators”, the tower is higher. Also, the tallest tower created was made by engineers . The conclusion is that a team must include, specialized skills and facilitator skills.

We can wonder what link there is between the marshmallow challenge and team success? We have to think that every project has his marshmallow. This challenge involves shared experience, common language and the concept of prototyping and facilitation. This challenge shows us that a project can be turn into a “Ta-da” and not a “Oh-Oh” by just integrating complementary skills and ideas.

We have seen that Team building is a focus on improving social interactions, through a formal and information team-level interventions, which is made to solve task and interpersonal problems that affect team functioning (Klein et al., 2009). Furthermore Team building will also include, goal setting, and task clarification. From, ‘get to know you’ exercises, to “get your role” in your team, Team building wants to ensure cohesion and mutual collaboration among the team. A recent meta-analysis (Klein et al., 2009) showed that team-building activities were most effective in improving team processes and emotional (and behavioral)  outcomes. Thus, if all of the components are important, goal setting and role clarification seem to have the most impact.

This TED experiment shows us that, Team building involves also trust (with the young graduate student that can’t perform without cohesion), defined roles (the performance of the team is higher with specialized skills and facilitator skills). The marshmallow challenge also shows us that you can’t rely on one plan. However, if there is an ability to create prototypes for some teams, there isn’t the opportunity for all teams. On the other hand, implanting this experiment for Team building is an excellent idea to see how a team can perform in 18 minutes. Finding our role in a team gives us the opportunity to help and to perform together.

This TED speech is really surprising. When you realize that kids can perform better than you because they are not following a specific plan, elaborate without prototypes, you can realize that your could perform better as a team. Furthermore, Team building is a long road, and share the best practices is also a solution to perform together. Thus, we have seen that this experiment revels what is one of the biggest challenge of every individual in a team: collaboration. Collaboration is effective when you know your role and you trust your team.


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