Christian Long

Tom Wujec: Build a Tower, Build a Team

In TED Talks on May 24, 2010 at 10:35 am

Extra credit reflection by CARL K.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Tom Wujec:   Build a Tower, Build a Team

As Tom Wujec sees this Marshmallow Experiment from a designers perspective, I see more how the human mind works, which is twisted. What I got out of his presentation was this key concept. One, as we get older, we become more robotic. Now, if I were to give this statement out in public, like to all of my peers, I would get many “Ha ha’s” in response back. But, even though it is comedic thought, in essence it’s kinda true. When we become adults, or just even growing up in general, we start to lose sight on the world around us, and focus on what’s right in front of us. We function objectively. In order for something to be accomplished, there are certain steps that must be followed just to achieve that goal. Take the marshmallow experiment, with the business students: as Tom says, “they try and find the single, right way and execute on it.” And how do their structures turn out? Pitiful. You see, society today has molded, wired us into thinking that if we act focus on one objective, in a precise way, everything will be correct. Like robots. They function on seeing the world as one big task, mission, whatever. The robots are given instructions how to accomplish a goal, they set out in a methodical way to reach that goal, once they achieve it, the cycle starts all over again. However, like robots, we’re not perfect. Somewhere down the line, we too will have a “system error” and will eventually have to “abort” our task, which can lead to minor or major drawbacks (depending on the situation, of course). And then the cycle starts all over, again.

What I’m trying to get to is this: based off the statistics, from Tom’s presentation, of all the people (excluding architects and engineers) he tested this experiment, kindergarteners had the best results. Kindergarteners?! Why do kindergarteners have a better time at a simple experiment than adults? I probably know the reason. It might be due to the fact that they aren’t focused on one specific thing at time. Their minds are always wondering around the universe. This is one of the reasons I loved this video, the kids didn’t just try one way in completing the task. No, in fact they tried multiple times. See, kids always like to experiment with different things, and what’s really interesting about it is how they get there. They don’t just settle for one way, since their minds are always floating in the air, kids want to see something bigger and better. And it doesn’t matter HOW they get there, just as long they get there. And for that reason, is why the kindergarteners are the most successful group out of everyone. They don’t care about the little things, they don’t focus on getting the experiment wrong, they’re looking to have fun, and being creative.

So, to circle back to my original comment, are we becoming more robotic? Have we forgotten what it is like, to be a 5-year-old with the mind capacity, filled with infinite amounts of creativity? I think that we’ve become so out of tune, with our inner-kid, that we have forgotten that the world isn’t one big mission. Although, robots are cool and all, they lack human emotion and creativity, which is where I think we are headed as a society. Because we focus on things being right and wrong, we end up screwing ourselves over when things turn for the worse. So I believe that we need to all be like Tommy Pickle, from the Rugrats. For anyone, mainly my generation, kids growing up in the 90’s, you know how he was like. It was baby power! Tommy was adventurous, he took risks, he did things that no ordinary babies would do. He was really creative in everything he did, and he always sought ways to have fun. Our society needs to learn from that. Everyone is so uptight these days, on getting things wrong. We just need to take a chill pill, calm down, and take it easy. Things in life will go wrong, but as long as we get to where need to go, in any way, shape, or form, we’ll eventually get there.


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