Marshmallow Madness: The Marshmallow Test
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” Philippians 2:3-4
How can twenty sticks of spaghetti, tape, string, and one marshmallow help develop Godly leadership skills?
The Marshmallow Challenge has become a popular game at leadership conferences and team building events. The challenge asks builders to work together in small groups to come up with the tallest freestanding structure. Teams have less than half an hour to complete this task using only the items provided and the whole marshmallow must be on top of the structure.
See, marshmallows aren’t just for kids! This activity has been conducted in business schools, engineering departments, as well as in kindergartens. Can you guess which group tends to perform most successfully?
Business school grads did poorly. They argued and fought over who was in charge. Engineering students spent most of their time planning, talking and then finally building, which didn’t leave them much time for last minute changes when, inevitably, the structure didn’t support the weight of the marshmallow on top.
Kindergarteners excelled in this challenge. They just started building. They didn’t worry about failure. Without any training whatsoever, they created the most unusual structures that did in fact withstand the marshmallow’s weight. We can learn from these young architects.
This week, gather the items if you have them, or feel free to swap out any (except the large marshmallow of course). I’ve used straws instead of spaghetti, and left out the string- It’s all about creativity.
This Marshmallow Madness is all about God’s backwards leadership model. In Matthew 20:26 Jesus challenges us that “whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant”. Those who want to grow in leadership should practice serving others and putting themselves last. Stay in one group or break into 2, but the youngest will be in charge. The others can have ideas or requests, but the youngest will be first in this activity, and will accept or deny the suggestions of the other members of the family. Remember, the kindergarteners achieved the highest success in the challenge across North America. If leaders in business and engineering can humble themselves to learn from five year olds, we should too. Let’s regard those God has put in our families as higher than ourselves and practice serving others as Jesus commands.