Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TED, Tom & the Marshmallow Challenge.

TED. Wikipedia tells us it’s short for Technology, Entertainment, Design [1]. TED’s a US private non-profit foundation established in 1984. It’s best known for its conferences (the first was in 1990) in the US and later Europe and Asia, devoted to ‘ideas worth spreading’. Its lectures, aka TED Talks, are a maximum 18-minute length, and are available on-line. Two weeks ago I resolved to watch all TED Talks shorter than 10 minutes. Since then I’ve watched 20 or so, and today I write of my favourite so far.

Tom Wujec [2] (pictured) is a Fellow at Autodesk, the makers of design software for engineers, filmmakers, designers. He helps companies work in the emerging field of business visualization, i.e. the art of using images, sketches and infographics to help teams solve complex problems as a group. His 6 minute 52 second Ted Talk titled ‘Build a tower, build a team’ concerns the ‘Marshmallow Challenge’ – a team-building exercise. The aim’s to use 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of tape, a yard of string and a marshmallow to build as tall a tower as possible in 18 minutes, with the marshmallow on its top. One surprising group always beats the average. Can you guess which group? And why? Watch the Talk to find out [3]. Then check out the Marshmallow Challenge website [4].

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