Team building the Marshmallow Challenge way

Two weeks ago, my manager came to me and asked me to drag out some information on Belbin Team Roles for one of the teams at my work.

Last week, she asked if I could run the team building session for them.

Yesterday, I ran my first ever team building. And all indications are that it was a success. (Yay!)

In the lead up to the session, every member of the team completed an occupational personality questionnaire.  We then brought everyone’s information together to look at the team as a whole.  The goal of the session was to introduce people to team roles/team types, and then to use the information from everyone’s individual reports to create a stronger team.  So we split the day into 4 sections:

  1. The Marshmallow Challenge

    I heard about the Marshmallow Challenge from Tom Wujec’s TED talk, Build a tower, build a team.  The talk explains the challenge: to build a tower out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string and a marshmallow.  The marshmallow must be on the top.   Teams have 18 minutes to complete it.

    The challenge sounds easy, but it’s far from it.  About 50% of teams end up with a standing tower.  Out of the four teams in our challenge, one team made a truly standing tower (27 inches high – the highest I could find record of was 39 inches, average is around 20 inches).  Another team cheated to get theirs to stand, but were pretty close.

    After the building, I facilitated a discussion about how the teams worked together, and then got them to guess which of the 3 ‘categories’ of Belbin Team Types they were – Social, Action or Thinking.  Each group guessed correctly, which started to introduce the group to the concept.

  2.  A Team Map

    After the towers, we created a map of the entire team, by completing the Team Circle from the Belbin website.   We broke for afternoon tea, and let people discuss where they sat.
  3.  An Explanation 

    After a break, we all came back for a quick presentation.  In the presentation, I covered the strengths and allowable weaknesses of the nine types.  I also got people to share their types as we went through.

  4. Using the Information

    Once we’d covered all the types, we got into the real work.  We split the team into their smaller work teams, and got each team to create their circle.  Each team then had to come up with three key strengths and three key challenges. It was great to see the things teams came up with, and interesting to take part in some of the discussions.

And then we were done.  Phew!

Overall, the day was great.  I love the cheesy personality type/team building stuff.  I know some people don’t really get a kick out of it, but I just love learning more about how people work and think and live.  Everyone’s so different, and I find that fascinating!  I also remembered how much I love public speaking and presentations. And getting compliments from people on how well I understood the material, when I first learned about it two weeks ago was a confidence booster.  Basically, I couldn’t be happier.

And I can’t wait to do the next one…  Anyone need some team building?

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