Which organisation culture delivers success? Have you ever been part of a team which achieved disappointing results? Ask yourself: Was the team really focused on the task? Or did other issues divert their energy to matters getting in the way of success? How did the team work together? Did you have a winning culture within and around the team?
The following fun experiment will offer you a new perspective on what makes a winning team, sometimes against expectations.
The Business School Students vs Kindergarten Kids Experiment
To read all the details of the experiment, see Daniel Coyle’s book, “The Culture Code”. In a nutshell a series of 4-person groups were selected to complete a task at several Universities across the globe. The groups consisted of 2 types of groups: 1. Business School students and 2. Kindergarten students.
The Task: All were given 20 sticks of uncooked spaghetti, 1 yard (the study was based in US) of string, 1 yard of transparent tape and a marshmallow.
Their simple instructions: “Build the tallest possible structure. Only rule: The marshmallow must be at the top”
The winning group will surprise you and it delivers a powerful lesson around building an organisation culture that delivers success.
How The Business Students Tackled The Activity
The business students got right to work. They began talking, thinking, strategising, examined the materials, they tossed ideas back and forth and asked thoughtful savvy questions. It was professional, rational and intelligent. The decision was to pursue one particular strategy. Then they divided up the task and started building.
How The Kindergarteners Addressed The Challenge
The Kindergarteners took a different approach. They did not strategise or analyse or share experiences. They did not ask questions, propose options or hone ideas. In fact, they barely talked at all. They stood very close to one another. Their interactions were not smooth or organised. They abruptly grabbed materials from one another and started building following no plan or strategy. When they spoke, they did it in short bursts – “here” “no, here”
Which Approach Delivers Success? An Easy Bet?
If you had to bet which of these teams would win, it would not be a difficult choice: you would bet on the business school students because they possess the intelligence, skills and experience to do a superior job.
This is what we normally think about group performance. We assume that skilled individuals will combine to produce skilled performance.
Well, your bet would be wrong.
The Surprise High Performers Were Consistently Ahead
In dozens of trials, kindergarteners built structures that averaged 26 inches tall while business school students built structures that averaged less than 10 inches in height.
Teams of kindergarten kids also beat teams of lawyers who averaged just 15 inches and CEO’s who averaged 22 inches.
Our instincts have got us to focus on the wrong details. We focus on what we can see – individual skills. But individual skills are not what matters.
What Matters Is The Interaction
The business school students appear to be interacting but what they are really doing is what psychologists call “Status Management”: figuring out where they fit into the larger picture. ‘Who is in charge?’ ‘Is it OK to criticise someone’s idea?’ ‘What are the rules here?’.
Their interactions appear smooth, but their underlying behaviour is riddled with inefficiencies, hesitation and subtle competition.
Instead of focussing on the task they are focussing on one another. They spend so much time managing status, they fail to grasp the essence of the problem.
The actions of the kindergarteners appear to be disorganised on the surface but when you view them as an entity their behaviour is efficient and effective.
- These kids are not competing for status.
- They stand shoulder to shoulder and work energetically together.
- They move quickly spotting problems and offering help.
- And they experiment, take risks and notice outcomes which guides them to effective solutions.
The kindergarteners succeed not because they are smarter together, nor because they work together in a smarter way. Instead, they are tapping in to a simple but powerful method in which a group of ordinary people can produce an outcome far beyond the sum of their parts.
Help The Team Say “Our Organisation Culture Delivers Success”
Helping people work shoulder to shoulder is the essence of Bridgeworks. Focussing less on satisfying egos and more on producing outstanding results from a group of ordinary people.
Are your people standing shoulder to shoulder?
If not, give me a call – let’s talk