Reflections on the ‘Build a Tower’ Exercise
I wanted to examine the purpose of the build a tower exercise we did on our first official day. First, I’ll talk about what the exercise was (and who won 🙂 ) followed by an explanation of its purpose and my reflection.
The build a tower exercise tasked us with building a tower (as tall as possible) within a six minute time period (I think). The only tools we had were dry spaghetti and Jet-Puffed marshmallows. Our team (Timeli) devised a plan to create a pyramid tower with a square base. We executed our plan swiftly and were left with plenty of time on our hands, too much time. Although we won, we were told to reflect on what we could have done better and how we could have used the last three minutes more effectively.
The goal of the exercise was to encourage strong collaboration skills which include time management skills, work delegation, and effective communication. The idea was that learning team-building skills in minor situations could translate to more major projects.
I believe issue of time restricted us in that building the tower became a race against others and time. The extreme time constraint defeats the purpose of exercise because if participants feel like they should be rushing, some might prioritize speed over other things such as engineering (bundling the pasta makes it sturdier). More time for this exercise would support collaboration skills because it would resemble actual team-oriented projects whereas a six minute time period would promote a “move fast and break things” attitude—the opposite of the exercise’s purpose. I’ve seen variations of this exercise that explicitly tells participants about different stages such as planning, building, etc. But, the goal here was to see if we, students, could come up with that ourselves. I believe a good way to examine this would be to keep the conditions the same, but provide more time.