Sunday, September 16, 2007

Why a kindergardner can achieve more than an MBA

I recently watched a talk by Peter Skillman, Director of New Product Development for Palm, Inc. I love him - mostly because he helped create my new Palm Smartphone that I am totally in love with because it keeps me so organized. And I love being organized. I wonder how in the world I lived without this thing. And Peter says we have only scratched the surface of possibility with this device - I can hardly wait to see what these things will do next! Also, he confirmed my underlying suspicion that kindergartners are smarter than MBAs.

Now, I have an MBA, and so do many of my friends. And I can say from my gut, I think getting an MBA asks us to temporarily lose a part of ourselves that is critical to our success. Peter Skillman has done an experiment with various groups, all around the country. The assignment goes like this - build the tallest structure possible that can support the weight of a marshmallow using only 18 pieces of spaghetti and one meter of tape. The highest average height - kindergartners. the lowest average height - MBAs. He's got data to show this - data that even the most analytical MBA could not falsify. Sorry b-schoolers. I am one of you - so I am equally embarrassed. I'm not laughing at you - I am laughing with you.

So why does this happen? We are all in kindergarten once. What happened? And he noticed something very interesting - kindergartners dug right in. They worked together, imagined the impossible. A structure as tall as the Empire State Building. Yeah - let's do it! MBAs - they spent half their time figuring out who would be CEO and the President of the Tape Cutting Division. Divide up every piece of the project, set benchmarks for progress, monitor the spaghetti budget, play it safe, what is everyone else doing? Kindergartners focused on the actual need - supporting the marshmallow. MBAs focused on beating others around them. Kindergartners approached the task without any fear of failure. MBAs would never even think of disgracing themselves with failure at such a simple task.

It turns out that the shorter the design cycle, the more important it is to failure as soon as possible in order to succeed sooner. Who knew? We did - we all did. When we were 5, and at 25 we have completely erased that intuition.

There is a video on YouTube that is the depiction of Apple's ad campaign in the 1980's. "A Salute to the Crazy Ones." If you've never seen it, you need to. Actually, if you've never seen it, stop reading this blog right now, and click the following link. Because the crazy ones who think they can change the world (or build the tallest spaghetti structure to support a marshmallow), do.

The photo above is the sole property of Apple.

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