The Marshmallow Test for Entrepreneurs

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November 17, 2017
Thoughts by
Tyler Hagler

TriangleCast Podcast 2 of 2 - We Look for T-Shaped People.

In this second section of the podcast, we explored a number of cool topics.  We picked up with a description of the essential virtual company collaboration toolset: Slack, Asana, Join.me, appear.in. I shared our process for choosing Asana over Trello. Also, I gave a shout out to Ashley Whitley for her project management talents.

We talked about hiring for a virtual company, that it’s amazing for work-life balance, but it is not for everyone. At Trig, we look for T-shaped people, or those who have in-depth skills in one area and has the curiosity to constantly expand into new skill areas. We found that we have a hard time retaining specialists because our client challenges are so diverse. Those who are excited to tackle new challenges that may be tangential to what they know are a great fit for us. Entrepreneurs would likely fit the T-shaped description as well, with technical expertise in one area that was critical to launch the company, then ever expanding skill sets as they grow to meet the needs of their startup.

Introverts, Extroverts, and Ambiverts

We talked about how the population spectrum between introversion and extroversion is bell shaped. Daniel Pink introduces the idea of ambiverts in his book To Sell is Human as the most effective sales personality. Also be sure to check out our other article on MBTI and how it creates a misunderstanding of the Introversion-Extroversion scale.

The Marshmallow Test for Entrepreneurs

Marshmallow test for entrepreneurs

We also talked about the Marshmallow Test, which is a multi-stage study following children who take a test at 5 years old then tracking how they did in their careers. The child was brought into a room and presented with a marshmallow on a plate then told that if they waited 10 minutes, they would get two marshmallows. Some children ate the marshmallow right away, ending their test. Other children developed strategies to not eat the marshmallow, looking away, humming, etc. the study then tracked those children who could delay gratification and found that they were far more likely to have successful careers and fulfilling families than those who ate the marshmallow. We then played with the idea that an entrepreneur is one who waits, gets the second marshmallow, then starts trying to negotiate for more marshmallows by waiting further, or trading their marshmallow to get something else. In effect, entrepreneurs have to constantly be delaying gratification as they build a business.

The Dangers of Overconfidence

Jason asked a great question of leadership lessons I might have learned while in sports. I shared one of my dumbest moments leading a team of new kayakers on the water after the lake had just thawed.  I shared how we ended up in a 4-person kayak that stayed upright purely on the confidence I had in my abilities to keep the boat upright.  This confidence lasted until we got to the middle of the lake and we had a bad shake.  I said the fateful words, "Maybe we should steer closer to shore," which made everyone panic and in we went.  It was a long, cold swim back to the shore, pulling a heavy boat and concerned about hypothermia.  As entrepreneurs, we need to be careful to guard against our own hyper-optimism and have a back-up plan followed by another back-up plan to manage downside risk.

Such a fun podcast conversation.  Thanks again to Jason and Corey for having me on!

Tyler Hagler

As a career industrial designer and innovation practitioner, Ty Hagler has managed hundreds of new product development programs through the process of opportunity identification guided to commercialization.


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