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The Marshmallow Challenge as a Model of Teamwork


There exist numerous techniques in the modern world aiming at understanding and enhancing teamwork mechanisms. The Marshmallow Challenge, where the participants are asked to build a tall tower using several materials, is one of the most outstanding examples. Its efficacity is proved in all age groups, and sometimes the results are unexpected and thought-provoking. The implementation of this exercise or its basic ideas into team training sessions may significantly improve collaborative work.

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Comparing the Results of Participants

The analysis of different age groups’ performances shed light on a surprising truth. Kindergartners gained one of the leading positions, surpassing even business school graduates. Wujec (2010) explains this phenomenon by the fact that children are able to constantly build and fix prototypes, which helps them spend time wisely. That is absolutely true because while business students discuss the task, identify the leader, and search for a perfect solution, kindergartners try various options. However, that is not the sole reason for the youngest participants’ victory. Apart from the adults, they are not afraid of making mistakes. Moreover, kindergartners can easily concentrate on a game task because it is their natural environment. They do not need any incentives, such as money offered to the adults. The game itself encourages kids to reveal their skills and abilities.

Working on Process Intervention Skills

Another fact highlighted by Wujec (2010) is the improvement of CEOs’ work with the help of executive administrators. The reasons for this success may be rooted in the concept of process intervention. This activity implies inviting a person who helps the group solve its problems by observing its processes. This person makes the participants aware of their behavior and the interactions between them. Considering the condition of limited time, the presence of competitors, and a possible reward, people inside a group cannot objectively evaluate their work. They may be overwhelmed with emotions, which negatively impacts their performance (Lane et al., 2016). That is why a skillful executive administrator is essential in facilitating a process intervention workshop. Understanding how to correctly intervene in the work of a group of students may be useful for those who start their careers in higher education. That will make the atmosphere in the team more benevolent and help the students achieve their goals more easily. The example in the video made it clear that process intervention raises the productivity of a team because executive administrators understand the working process and know how to manage it.

Other Insights from the Marshmallow Challenge

The Marshmallow Challenge proved the value of communication and cooperation within the team. As said in the video, this exercise “helps in identifying hidden assumptions” (Wujec, 2010). Evidence suggests that the more active discussions the participants have, the better the performance will be (Suzuki et al., 2016). Therefore, teamwork is a structure that can be metaphorically compared to the tower made of pasta sticks. When based on the joint efforts of all participants, it is stable and trustworthy. However, if everyone tries to prove their superiority, it becomes unbalanced and, eventually, falls. Therefore, people working on a group project should understand the interdependence of all team members.


There are several lessons to be learned from the experiments with the Marshmallow Challenge. First, kindergartners succeed in working together on such tasks because they tend to be more imaginative, open-minded, and as a result, less restricted in choice. Second, working on process intervention skills may increase the effectiveness of teamwork. Finally, the success of the work in a group is achieved by exchanging opinions and uniting efforts.


Lane, A. M., Totterdell, P., MacDonald, I., Devonport, T. J., Friesen, A. P., Beedie, C. J., Stanley, D, & Nevill, A. (2016). Brief online training enhances competitive performance: Findings of the BBC Lab UK psychological skills intervention study. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1−14. Web.

Suzuki, N., Shoda, H., Sakata, M., Inada, K. (2016). Essential tips for successful collaboration – A case study of the “Marshmallow Challenge”. In S. Yamamoto (Ed.), Human interface and the management of information: Applications and services (pp. 81−89). Springer.

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Wujec, T. (2010). Building a tower, building a team. TED. Web.

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