The Marshmallow Challenge

No, it’s not a competition to see who can fit the most marshmallows in their mouth.

It’s a design exercise that you could do individually or as a group.  More importantly, it’s a lot of fun.

Some use this exercise as a team building event while others incorporate this into their Agile Retrospectives.

The idea is to use spaghetti and other materials to build the tallest free standing structure you can.  Your free standing structure must include a marshmallow at the very top.  Whoever builds the tallest structure, wins!

So what makes this challenge so different?  What intrigued me about this challenge is that children (especially those in Kindergarten) achieve better results than adults.  How is that possible?

Children tend to build their structure incrementally.  That is, they start with a short structure and place the marshmallow on top.  Then, they increase the height of the structure and place the marshmallow on top again.  They continually test.

Adults tend to build the entire structure and wait for the very end to place the marshmallow on top.  In most cases the structure collapses.

What I took away from this exercise is that you should test early and test often.  You can apply that to so many things.  Not just software development.