Ask a team of business students to build the tallest tower possible in 18 minutes using 20 sticks of uncooked spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string and a marshmallow that must be placed on top, and you’re likely to be disappointed with the results.
Ask a bunch of pre-school children to do the same thing, however, and they’ll likely do a much better job. Why? Because as designer Peter Skillman, the original architect of the ‘spaghetti tower’ experiment, points out, none of the children spend any time “trying to be the CEO of Spaghetti Inc”.
In his best-selling book The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle describes the different approaches the teams take to Skillman’s team-building exercise. The business students, he notes, got right to work: “They began talking and thinking strategically. They tossed ideas back and forth and asked thoughtful, savvy questions. They generated several options, then honed the most promising ideas. It was professional, rational and intelligent.”