How to Run the Marshmallow Challenge

It's fascinating to introduce a group of people to the marshmallow challenge. And watch how grown-up people try to solve a seemingly silly problem and cheer when they succeed.

Boy in grey crew-neck t-shirt plays LEGO bricks with white manual book.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

If you're unfamiliar with the exercise, check the marshmallow challenge home page to learn more about it.

First, here are some tips for you, especially if you organize the exercise for the first time.

A Few Tips

My main advice would be to keep everybody entertained, be friendly and still keep things in order.

Continuously adjust the style of the activity to the group's culture.

Don't forget that this is a game; make sure the participants also know this.


Start with a short presentation introducing the challenge. After the presentation, tell the participants that this challenge will help them work together as a team. And they will be able to use the lessons for anything they're doing, even outside work. Without giving away too much, that would ruin the actual exercise.

Tell them that this exercise is conducted by thousands of people, from kindergarten students to top managers from world-leading companies; this can help them take it more seriously.


Make sure you're very clear about the goal of the exercise, as well as clearly communicating the rules.

You probably want to repeat the rules a few times; people might be playing with the ingredients and not pay enough attention.


There are always a few teams who try to bend the rules or even cheat. Make sure they're not getting any unfair advantage. Be encouraging about creative ideas, even if they're slightly bending the rules; announce these attempts loudly. It might help other teams to think outside the box.


To encourage healthy competition, offer some prizes for the winning team depending on the team's culture. It can be anything from standing ovation from the other groups, or sweets, books. A huge prize can have a pretty *negative effect on the performance.


Optionally, to make the exercise less formal, play some music. Select the music based on the environment you're organizing the event. Rock, pop music is usually a good choice. However, some groups might prefer classical music.

The volume should be enjoyable and not distracting. If the music is too loud, everybody will start to shout at each other. And the exercise turns into chaos.

The recommended length of the challenge is 18 minutes. You can emphasize that with exactly that long playlist; when the music stops, the challenge is over.

Next: Step One: Schedule The Event