Lessons from a Marshmallow, Tape, Spaghetti, and Yarn | 那些從棉花糖、膠帶、麵條和毛線學的事

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Last week at work, there was a team bonding activity where we were challenged to build the tallest structure possible with only one yard of tape, one marshmallow, twenty strings of uncooked spaghetti, and one foot of yarn. We all thought it would be easy peasy until we realized the entire marshmallow had to be at the top of the structure. How could thin, uncooked spaghetti and yarn hold up an entire marshmallow?

We were divided into several different groups and only had eighteen minutes to strategize and build the structure. When time was up, only a little more than half of the groups succeeded in creating something that fit the guidelines, while everyone else either had nothing built or fallen structures.

After the activity, we were asked to reflect on this exercise, and that’s when we all realized how many valuable lessons we could learn from just one marshmallow, some tape, spaghetti, and yarn.

1. Tall structures need strong foundations.

One person shared how his team was initially focused purely on how to increase their structure’s height because the goal of the exercise was to make the tallest structure possible. However, they soon realized they couldn’t go much higher unless they created a stronger foundation, so they shifted their focus to the base. Often times we think about the end goal and just go full steam ahead without evaluating whether we are truly ready or capable of rushing forward. So sometimes we need to take a step back, see where we currently are, and work on our foundations so that our progress to that end goal will be smoother and the end result, solid.

2. Sometimes you just need to go for it.

One person said her group spent so much time strategizing that they didn’t have enough time to actually build the structure. Sometimes we focus so much on goal outlining and planning that we fail to execute and actually get things done. So sometimes we need to set a time limit for our planning and then just go for it. Once the execution begins, we can then see how things turn out and refine the strategy as we go.

3. Failures are not final.

One group said their structure completely toppled when there were only three minutes left, and everyone went into stress mode, trying desperately to repair their fallen structure. Ultimately, they were not only able to rebuild their structure, but also rank in the top three for height. Goes to show that failures happen, but as long as there’s still time on the clock, there’s still hope, so don’t give up immediately when things go wrong. After all, it’s not over until it’s over.

4. Sometimes it helps to think like a child.

Apparently, this exercise has been done at many other companies and also in kindergarten classrooms, and interestingly, almost every kindergartner had no trouble building a standing structure according to the guidelines while only a little over half of adults can. This may be because kids don’t have too many preconceptions that limit their thinking. For example, adults may think about the laws of physics and have that guide their building process, but the kindergartners don’t have that knowledge and thus build their structures out of innocent creativity. Maybe sometimes knowing too much can actually hurt and limit our thinking, so sometimes we really have to clear our minds and think like a child.

5. Karma is real.

This was something I observed. Those who tried to use “unethical” ways of building their structures (i.e. consulting their phones for tips when you weren’t supposed to and sneakily continuing to build their structures after time was called) didn’t succeed. Ultimately, their structures fell over or never made it to standing. So don’t break the rules or take ethical shortcuts. The results are never good, and your co-worker may also now have a not-so-pleasant impression of you.

******

為了培養團隊精神,我老闆上禮拜設計了一個比賽。老闆把我們七十幾位員工分成了十幾組,並給每一組同一個任務:在十八分鐘之內,用一顆棉花糖、36’’的膠帶、20根麵條和12”的毛線做出一個能單獨站立的物體。勝負取決於物體的高度 — 哪一組能做出最高的物體就是比賽的贏家。我們本來覺得這任務應該不難,但是老闆突然又加了一條規則:整顆棉花糖一定要立在物體的最高點。這下我們每一個人都抓頭,因為麵條跟毛線能撐起一顆棉花糖嗎?

最後,在十幾組當中,只有半數左右成功地做出符合規則的物體。剩下的則是什麼都沒做成,或是立起物體之後,卻坍塌下來。

比賽完了之後,大家一起討論製作物體的過程。結果我們發現,原來從棉花糖、膠帶、麵條和毛線也能學到不少跟工作和人生有關的道理。

1. 堅固的根基是登高的要件。

有一位同事分享說,他那一組一開始只專注如何增加物體的高度。但後來他們發現,物體若要高,根基就需要堅固穩定。於是他們就把所有的注意力都擺在建造根基上。

很多時候,當我們在追求某個目標時,我們只會顧著向前衝,不會去想是否真的準備好可以向前衝。也許我們應該學會放慢腳步,仔細自我省思, 確定所有根基都建立完畢,再向前走。這樣子邁向目標的過程會比較順利,結果也會比較紮實。

2. 三思而不行如同失敗。

有另一位同事提到,她們那一組把所有的時間都花在討論策略,結果什麼都沒有做成。有時候,我們也是這樣,一直說,一直想,卻沒有去做。任何沒有行動的策劃是不可能有結果的,所以我們應該給自己訂下一個時間表。時間到了,就直接去做,然後邊做邊修改策略。這樣才有成功的可能。

3. 失敗不是終結。

有一組的物體在只剩下最後三分鐘的時候突然倒塌下來。整組的同事齊心努力,用盡所有的辦法想要重建他們的作品。最後不僅成功地挽回他們的作品,還得到了整個比賽的前三名。這就證明一時的失敗並非永久的失敗。失敗了,就重新再來。只要還有時間,就有希望,所以失敗時不要馬上放棄。

4. 擁有孩童般單純的思維竟也是個優勢。

這個比賽不僅在很多別的公司舉行過,也曾經在許多幼稚園辦過。有趣的是,通常幼稚園的孩子都能成功地做出一個符合規則的物體,但是成人通常只有半數左右能順利地完成任務。許多專家認為這是因為孩子和成人在思維上的差異。因為孩子們年紀小,還沒有接觸很多的知識,所以在思維上沒有任何預設的限制,很容易就憑著單純的創意完成任務。反觀成人會被很多的知識所局限,不容易有突破性的思維,甚至有時候會把簡單的事複雜化。所以某些時候,擁有孩童般單純的思維是個優勢。

5. 真有報應這回事。

我私底下觀察到一些同事使用不誠實的小手段,但最後他們都無法成功完成任務。例如,有幾位同事在時間結束之後,仍然偷偷的繼續完成他們的任務,但結果物體還是塌了。除此之外,另外幾位同事違反規則,用手機搜尋完成任務的秘訣,結果也是什麼都沒做成。所以無論什麼事情都要誠誠實實的去做,不要動歪腦筋。沒有道德的行為是會招來報應的。

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