The Marshmallow Test
An experiment conducted in 1972 by Walter Mischel of
Stanford University sought to determine if deferred gratification can be an
indicator of future success.
Children, aged four to six, were taken into a room where a
marshmallow was placed on the table in front of them. Before leaving each of
the children alone in the room, the examiner told them they would receive a
second marshmallow if the first was still on the table after 15 minutes.
One-third deferred gratification long enough to receive the second marshmallow.
In follow-up studies, Mischel found that those who deferred gratification were
significantly more competent and received higher SAT scores than their peers,
meaning that this characteristic likely remains with a person for life.
The children that went on to be more successful were the
ones that didn’t eat the marshmallow. They thought ahead. Thinking ahead
requires us to not think so much about now. It means we are required to look
into the future. To make some decisions now that will affect the future - which
is, of course, one of the things that Architects are really good at.
This is especially pertinent for Enterprises, not from the
point of view of future personal success but because two thirds of children
sought short term benefits over long term benefits and will likely carry that
into later life, especially when in later life the motivation they receives
condones the behaviour. This is a cancer that afflicts 90% of all Enterprises
today. These are not bad people however. They are just the product of
Psychology and the context in which they work and the way that context
Do people in your Enterprise
concentrate more on short term benefit rather than long term benefit?
Can you think of examples
where this has happened in the past?
Who were they? What was the
impact? Why do you think they acted in this way?
What needs to change to reduce
the likelihood of it happening in the future?
Who needs to drive that