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Publish at 21 janvier 2019 Updated 10 septembre 2021

Putting together a spaghetti tower for team building

Self-learning of project management by a team

The material needed for the tower building exercise.

Building a tower to build a team

The idea of building spaghetti towers to build teams is pretty simple:

  • The goal is for the group to collaborate and coordinate quickly. It is used in creativity workshops, project management training courses. The audience varies from kindergarten classes to architects or engineers.
  • The way of doing things is recorded by observers in order to receive valuable information on the nature of the group's collaboration, which will thus learn from its own mistakes.
  • Most people begin to step back from the task. They begin by talking about it, and seek to sketch the future outcome . This often begins as a power struggle. They spend little time planning, organizing. They make sketches and start laying out the spaghetti. Mostly they spend a lot of time assembling the rods into more and more complex structures, until just before the time runs out, someone takes the initiative to put the Mashmallow down and carefully places it as high as possible on the highest point of the structure and steps back to admire the result as the rest of the group looks on. In fact, the wow often turns into "oh of desolation" because the structure collapses under the weight of the candy.

The results of different teams

Some groups do better than others. The worst are the young business school graduates. Distracted, poorly organized, they often seek first to take the lead before thinking about the required deliverables.

Curiously, other teams such as particularly kindergarten students build taller structures than business school students!"

The question then is why? What is special about them? It is mainly because no child has spent time to become a technical director of the Spaghetti Limited Corporation. They don't waste their time capital maneuvering for power. There is another reason, business school students are trained to come up with the one plan that will work and then implement it. They take their time and when the deadline approaches, it's crisis, panic on board.

What kindergarten students do is they start with the candy. They build prototypes in succession, always keeping the mashmallow, and focus on the iterative process. They take immediate notice of what works and what doesn't. Their ability to work on prototypes is essential.

Business schools typically produce towers that are 50 cm lower than kindergartens, which themselves often do better than most adults, especially lawyers.

Happily, the best are often architects and engineers.

The objective of the exercise

  • The challenge is to produce the highest possible spaghetti towers.
  • Duration 18 minutes.
  • Each group is divided into teams of four to five people.
  • In each group an observer will take notes to capitalize on how the group organized itself to produce its tower.
  • The feedback to the group by this observer will allow the team to learn from its own mistakes.

Materials

  • We need a mashmallow,
  • 20 raw spaghetti,
  • 30 cm of tape,
  • 30 cm of string and
  • a pair of scissors per team.

The method

  • From the materials provided for each team, you have to make the tallest tower in the allotted time of 18 minutes.
  • The winning team is the one who positioned the chamalow, the highest. One end is enough! But beyond the result, the major interest in pedagogy is the report of the observer who recorded the different phases of the operations. The other members of the team complete the observations or explain their way of working. If the highest towers reflect a collective work and good organization, the result is not guaranteed between a common goal to the group, without a coordinated organization .
  • It is the mirror returned by these observations that constitute without context, the best pedagogy of training-action . It is by spotting the shortcomings , e.g. , the focus on the height without taking into account the links or the weight of the mashmallow at the end of the course that can scupper the whole project .
  • Depending on the time available during the training, it is possible to repeat the exercise and see if the final result has improved and if not, find out why.

All in all, this fun exercise uses the multiple intelligences of the participants in particular the kinesthetic intelligence rarely used in class. The immediate feedback is sanctioned by the tangible result of the strength of the tower, emulation between teams, time pressure ... In short, a synthetic compound of daily project life.

References

The Spaghetti Diagram - http://www.eponine-pauchard.com/2010/09/le-diagramme-spaghetti/

Designing and Building a Spaghetti Bridge - https://prezi.com/necy0kooacfn/conception-et-realisation-dun-pont-de-spaghetti/

Building a Spaghetti Tower - http://isg-arts-appliques.blogspot.com/2012/01/construction-dune-tour-en-spaghettis.html

What you can learn from a kindergartner - http://www.exam-pm.com/ce-que-lon-peut-apprendre-dun-enfant-de-maternelle/

Marshmallow challenge - Sogilis - https://sogilis.com/blog/marshmallow-challenge/


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