Kindergartners Are Smarter Than Business School Students

Imagine a room filled with 30 people, divided into six teams. Each team gets 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of string, strips of scotch tape, and a single marshmallow. They have 18 minutes to build a free-standing structure that will enable the marshmallow to rest on top. This is marshmallow challenge.

Marshmallow Challenge

In a seven-minute TED talk, Tom Wujec shares data suggesting that, while the average team produces a tower with a height of about 20 inches, business school students tend to significantly underperform the average. While MBA students do poorly, kindergarteners beat the average:

[B]usiness students are trained to find the single right plan, right? And then they execute on it. And then what happens is, when they put the marshmallow on the top, they run out of time and what happens? It’s a crisis. Sound familiar? Right. What kindergarteners do differently is that they start with the marshmallow, and they build prototypes, successive prototypes, always keeping the marshmallow on top, so they have multiple times to fix when they build prototypes along the way. Designers recognize this type of collaboration as the essence of the iterative process. And with each version, kids get instant feedback about what works and what doesn’t work.

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