Monday, November 8, 2010

The Marshmallow Challenge

I must admit... I am quickly becoming addicted to the website  Fascinating and interesting little snippets of topics - just short enough for me to fill in a few moments here and there learning something new.  The video below is one such film clip on Ted, from Tom Wujec.  Tom is a Fellow at Autodesk, the makers of design software for engineers, filmmakers, designers. At Autodesk, he has worked on software including SketchBook Pro, PortfolioWall and Maya (which won an Academy Award for its contribution to the film industry).

Now... obviously, designing software is not my forte.  However, I think that there are tremendously valuable lessons that we can learn from one discipline and apply to others.  Tom's Marshmallow Challenge is one such.  In this challenge, groups are given 18 minutes within which to build the tallest tower possible using only the materials provided.  In this case, the materials include:  20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string and one marshmallow.  The final rule?  The marshmallow must be on the top of the finished structure.

Check out the video at...

After running this exercise hundreds of times, Tom has grouped some of his findings and experiences into some take-away messages.  In particular, his finding that building multiple prototypes along the way (the need to receive iterative feedback) is critical to the ultimate success of the project.  The value of prototyping is highlighted.  In essence, prototyping requires you to learn through failure.  Prototyping allows us to learn what does and doesn't work, ultimately arriving at a better, stronger, final product.

This process can and should be applied to our lives.  How often do we abandon something without having tried it first, either because we have already decided in our minds it won't work or because we won't risk looking silly (or worse) if it is not successful?  Often it is our unwillingness to 'try' that holds us back from achieving our full potential. 

I invite... no... I CHALLENGE each of you to go out and try something new, something that you've always wanted to but hesitated because you felt that you might not be thtat good at it.  Create a new mindset...  this is just a prototype attempt!  Prototypes are designed to be a trial version of something, to help you in designing and reaching 'better', if not 'perfect'.  Use this process to prototype your way to perfect!

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