What makes you daydream? A quiet cup of tea? A favorite song? A boring meeting? Too much to do all at once? Being over-productive?
For me, December is the time of year where despite my best effort, there is always too much to do. I am so productive I’m over productive – and a bit frozen and robotic.
But as I gazed out my office window, the sight of 14 inches of sparkling snow blanketing my yard was irresistible. And like the snow swirls in the wind, my mind drifted away from writing this blog and meandered into the silky white-winter woods.
I spotted a trail of paw prints. Fox? Bobcat? Deer? I wondered where our four-legged winter visitors sleep. Where do they find food? And what will I cook to feed our two-legged family who will hunker down for a long Christmas weekend ahead?
Soon it would be time to make my jeweled almond biscotti and candied pecans, and I could almost smell the caramelizing sugar and butter baking together.
Which got me thinking about the Marshmallow Challenge, a fantastic team building exercise. Do you know it? Definitely check it out if you don’t!
The Challenge involves teams of four that compete to see who can build the tallest free-standing tower from 20 sticks of uncooked spaghetti, one yard of tape and one yard of string—all topped off with one marshmallow—in 18 minutes.
The exercise is well-researched and it reveals powerful insights into collaboration and creativity. Participants include MBA students, engineers, and CTOs of Fortune 50 companies—and kindergartners.
And guess which group wins hands down, over and over again? The kindergartners. Here’s why.
Over the course of 18 minutes, the adults plan, converse, theorize and compete, while the kids just dive right in. Their minds are free of adult distractions.
Yes, they make mistakes — over and over again — and that’s exactly why they are successful. They keep learning as they build multiple prototypes of the marshmallow tower.
The kindergartners are present, curious and experimenting happily in the moment. Paradoxically, it seems that in their not-knowing, they do know exactly how to discover and move forward. They know how to play. Their minds are free to explore and have fun.
Granted, whenever there are engineers in the competition, they know how to build a tall tower that won’t collapse under the weight of the marshmallow at the top. After all, that’s their profession.
But to me, the Marshmallow Challenge is a tangible example of the process of creativity. It requires that we don’t get stuck in our heads. That we take a healthy wander away from the clutter of production and to-do lists.
Even a very short vacation (like 18-minutes for the kids) has immeasurably positive results.
So where would you like to wander right now? May you take the time to linger with your thoughts and follow your daydreams — returning refreshed and restored for the next task at hand.