July 23, 2012

Marshmallow Logic

We don’t want to wait until next quarter to see if that new initiative worked. If there’s an easier way, we generally pick it. Credit cards and impulse buys are tied at the hip. Three year olds have more patience than most grown-ups.

You see it on the social web. People start a LinkedIn group or Facebook page and wonder why new customers aren’t stampeding into their arms in a matter of days.

Want it Now

It occurs in the business world when a group has an idea and wants investors and customers to flow to their door. There's seemingly endless examples in leadership when someone reaches another achievement and wants the rest of the team to immediately embrace it.

It can be found with high potential leaders who want to fast track to VP stripes and omit all that pesky work that’s involved in earning them. It’s the guy tailgating you in traffic or the kid who wants to grow up too fast or the woman who can’t believe there are people in line at the gas station when she needs gas, and the list goes on.

Two for One

Imagine if you can have one million bucks right now, tax free. Interested? Well before you jump at it, you can choose the second option which is two million bucks, tax free. The catch, you have to wait a month to get it. The choice is a million now or two million in 30 days. The decision seems obvious. Or does it?

More than forty years ago at Stanford University, Walter Mischel and his team conducted a study on deferred gratification. The premise was simple. Each child was offered a choice – one marshmallow now or two later. The facilitator then left the child in the room with the treat for 15-20 minutes. More than 80% couldn't wait.

Wait and Succeed

Mischel’s team analyzed how long each child resisted the temptation and whether or not doing so was correlated with future achievements. They followed many of the kids for the next few years to document any patterns.

The marshmallow experiment has been challenged, replicated and accepted. Some of the brightest have studied will power and linked our ability to control ourselves to our health, wealth, leadership abilities, and success.

How's your patience?

Kneale Mann

flickr | walter mischel
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