Have you ever done the Marshmallow Challenge? It was probably at a conference or as a team building exercise. Or any other challenge where, as a team, you have to build the tallest structure with limited, fragile resources in a short space of time?
Right at the beginning of the process did anyone stop and ask “So, do we even want to win this thing?” or was winning just an assumed goal of the exercise?
Usually it’s assumed it’s a competition they have to win. Usually two or three people try to take over the leadership role within seconds or else no one steps up for a long time. Then everyone dives into planning and execution without even qualifying the goals and intentions of the activity.
I’ve done a few of these activities and it’s amazing how every time it is assumed that a) it’s a competition and b) that winning is the desired outcome. Yet often the facilitator will tell you that neither of these are their objectives. The real goals may be things like:
- developing team work
- observing interactions between people
- looking for conflict or leaderships skills to emerge
- breaking up an all day conference with a bit of fun
Which means that it’s about the process not the final product.
A dozen years ago I went to a weekend training camp for leaders of 4-8 year olds. One of the activities we did was to take off our shoes and make play doh with our toes. Yes, we had our toes mixing flour and water on a bit of plastic on the floor. Many people were getting frustrated at this impossible and very messy task. That is, until the trainer told us that this activity, like many things young children do, was about the process not the final product.
Last weekend I went on a dolphin spotting cruise and was amused to see two totally different sets of parents with their babies spending all their time taking photos of mum and baby and then dad and baby but not actually being in the moment. In their effort to capture the memories of the day through photos, they weren’t making memories and enjoying where they were. They had forgotten that it was about the process not the final product.
Sometimes in life it is about the final product. Sometimes the process is not important and can be messy, short, long, listed and checked or not. But often when it is about the process, we miss the lessons and joy in the process as our focus is on the wrong thing.
Today stop and consider the process of what you are doing. There may be beauty, joy or lessons in the process that you will never get from the end product.
Question: Have you experienced a time when you’ve received more value from the process than the end product? Share your experiences in the comments below.
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