ACT Project Kickoff – Just Add Loose Lumber and Duct Tape!

Each ACT team would assemble a stool out of spare lumber and duct tape, testing the rickety furniture on one of their own teammates.

December 03, 2013

When we, the latest group of Alumni Consulting Team volunteers gathered to kick off our projects in March 2014 at the Tinkering School in San Francisco, we didn’t realize what the alternative school had in store for us. Each ACT team would assemble a stool out of spare lumber and duct tape, testing the rickety furniture on one of their own teammates. The highest stool to hold a person without collapsing would win.

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Volunteers testing a stool

The Tinkering Institute is an ACT client itself this round. Its founder, Gever Tully, and his staff were on hand to provide a background on the school (he’s done a TED talk, naturally) and to emcee/referee the construction. After a frenzy of taping, he pointed out several points of convergent stool evolution, particularly in structures made by the teams working nearest each other.

Team Building through Furniture Building

As we stacked and measured off the wood that had been supplied by the Tinkering School, they had a chance to get to know each other. For example, we got to know who among us was light enough (and brave enough) to sit on a stool that was being hastily built by people they just met. And we had to settle differences in beliefs about physics and structures. Once time was called, there were many smiles around, and we all got to know each other in a deeper way than casual conversation would have allowed and really ‘gelled’ as a team. The winning structure was three-legged, a popular choice amongst the teams, but with a little less cross-bracing. It held a swaying team member over seven feet above the concrete floor for long enough to be measured, the criterion for success. The Tinkering staff awarded several notable mentions for creativity and robustness (to a team made of volunteers who were primarily engineers in college).

“Tinkering” with ACT

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Volunteer sitting on a stool

While working in the Tinkering school’s open warehouse, several larger constructions built by the school’s students rose above us – treehouses, bridges, and castles. Gever feels that even Stanford MBAs can learn the same valuable life lessons that his students do when given tools, materials, and guidance. Imagination can run wild, and teamwork fosters creative problem solving. Maybe ACT’s approach to this round of nonprofit clients will be ‘built’ with an extra dose of creativity!

By Russell Hamilton, MBA ’01, ACT Volunteer

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