Spark #

Connection Creates Success

We focus on what we can see–individual skills. But individual skills are not what matters. What matters is the interaction.

Spark #
Connection Creates Success
What We're Talking About

The principle we're discussing

Which group do you think would be more successful completing a task: a group of MBA students, or a group of kindergarteners? 

The designer and engineer Peter Skillman set out to answer this question by challenging different groups to build the tallest possible structure out of spaghetti, tape, string, and a marshmallow.

The adults operated by assessing the situation, deciding on an optimal solution, and dividing up tasks. The kids worked closely together (seemingly without structure), rapidly trying different approaches and shouting suggestions to each other as they iterated.

In the end, the kindergarteners built structures that averaged over two feet tall, while the MBA students built towers that averaged less than a foot.

Why it Matters

Why this principle is important and matters to you

We’re trained to think a team's skillsets and structure are most important to achieving positive outcomes. Skillman's experiment demonstrates that the way a team interacts has the biggest impact. 

The adults in his experiment were weighed down by the implicit need to manage their status within the team, wondering who was in charge and if they could safely challenge each other.

While the kids may have appeared disorganized, they were operating as one without competing for status.

As companies scale and manage distributed teams, it’s crucial to develop cultures where individuals feel like they’re part of the group and don’t need to compete.

How You Can Use It

This provides practical ways to apply learnings from this Spark

Connection and safety help teams achieve greater success. Think about moments when you’ve worked as a team, then spend some time considering the following:

  • Were you or your teammates concerned about status, hierarchy, or stepping on toes? How did this affect your outcomes? 
  • Have you ever had an experience similar to the kindergarteners in Skillman’s experiment? What was it like? 
  • How do things like being remote vs. in person, working on a smaller/larger team, and the amount of time you’ve been part of a team impact your experience (for better or worse)?

An opportunity to reflect on yourself and/or your team and how you can apply these insights

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