Why Your Workplace Depends on The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment

Posted: Updated:

Back in 1972, a researcher figured one of the most startling results in organizational psychology. Practically everything having to do with your success at work depends on your reaction to situations that can be set up using marshmallows. Seriously.

Here’s how the experiment works. You place a tasty marshmallow in front of a small child, and explain to them that they can either eat the treat right away, or they can wait until you get back and receive an additional marshmallow.

That’s it. Delayed gratification. Also, it’s YouTube gold: http://www.youtube.com/embed/6EjJsPylEOY

The Three Types of People

Psychologist Walter Mischel, who is credited with first trying this out with real children and real jet-puffed sugar snacks, discovered that there are basically three kinds of people in the world:

     • People who eat the marshmallow immediately.
     • People who try and hold out for a while, but can’t manage to control themselves.
     • People who are successful at choosing not to eat the marshmallow.

As you might expect, the second group is the biggest. But as Mischel tried the experiment with older and older children, he determined that kids do get better at self-control with age.

That, however, is not the surprising part.

The Future of Marshmallow Kids

Researchers have tracked these youngsters over the years. Those who held off and got the second marshmallow do better on SAT tests. They are described as “significantly more competent.” They are healthier, have better professional careers and longer-lasting relationships. As Businessweek notes, “They were, in short, better at life.”

What does this mean for you and your workplace?  If you want to get better at making the right decisions, build in some patterns of delayed gratification. Unwrap a candy bar and place it on your desk while you finish that report. Offer your team the choice of a small party now—or a major blowout if everyone can make the deadline. Keep the supply cabinet unlocked and set up a ping pong table that anyone can use. Study the psychology of your workplace culture by fostering a live test of everyone’s willpower.

The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment isn’t just about choices: it’s about our ability to have faith in promises made by others. It tests our resolve and encourages us to enjoy the fruits of our labor. And it also teaches us about everyone else. You’ll be surprised what you learn about your employees (and yourself) when temptation is everywhere.

  • Perspectives

    • (photo courtesy of Conexus)

      Getting the Word Out About Manufacturing & Logistics

      As the epicenter of the nation’s advanced manufacturing and logistics industries, Indiana has a compelling story to tell about how Hoosier companies make and move the goods people depend on every day. Our goal is to ensure everyone hears these stories – many of which share a common theme focused on cutting-edge technologies that are transforming the way products are made and moved around the world and the people who use them. Conexus Indiana launched an...

    More

Subscribe

Name:
Company Name:
Email:
Confirm Email:
HTML
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections
INPower
Subscribe
Unsubscribe

Events



  • Most Popular Stories

    • (photo courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana)

      Historic Hospital to be Torn Down in Gary

      A building that once represented the racial divide in the city of Gary, but long provided health care to the African American community, will soon fall to a wrecking ball. The city says it intends to raze the long-abandoned St. John’s Hospital. 

    • Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway

      Red Bull to Discontinue Air Race World Championship

      The Red Bull Air Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, originally scheduled for October, has been canceled as a result of Red Bull's decision to discontinue the Air Race World Championship following the 2019 season. The company says the races scheduled between June and September in Russia, Hungary and Japan will run as planned. 

    • On-Air

      Find out when and where you can watch and listen to our reports.

    • The Honda Greensburg plant opened in 2008.

      Honda to Invest $4M, Add Jobs at Greensburg Plant

      The American Honda Motor Co. continues to invest in its Greensburg, Indiana plant as it has announced the factory will be producing the company’s first electrified sport utility vehicle in the U.S. The company says it will invest more than $4 million and add 34 new jobs in the plant to support production of the CR-V Hybrid.  

    • Eleven Fifty was previously headquartered at Launch Fishers.

      Eleven Fifty to Cut Ribbon on New Location

      Eleven Fifty Academy will cut the ribbon on its new downtown location September 23. The nonprofit coding academy says it will host a grand opening ceremony November 6.