Governance, Culture and 5 monkeys

Human behavior of not challenging assumptions, I’ve noticed is a culture built in the asian region. It reminded me of a story, not sure if the experiment was fictional, but conveys a powerful point;  

 The story or the experiment starts with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, they hung a banana on a string with a ladder placed under it. Before long, a monkey went to the ladder and started to climb towards the banana. As soon as he started climbing, the psychologists sprayed all of the other monkeys with ice cold water. After a while, another monkey made an attempt to obtain the banana.  As soon as his foot touched the steps, all of the other monkeys were sprayed with ice cold water. It’s wasn’t long before all of the other monkeys would physically prevent any monkey from climbing the ladder.

 Now, the psychologists shut off the cold water, removed one monkey from the cage and replaced it with a new one. The new monkey saw the banana and started to climb the ladder. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attacked him.  After another attempt and attack, he discovered that if he tried to climb, he would be assaulted. Next they removed another of the original five monkeys and replaced it with a new one. The newcomer went to the ladder and was attacked. The previous newcomer took part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, they replaced a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey tried to climb the ladder, he was attacked. The monkeys had no idea why they were not permitted to climb the ladder or why they were beating any monkey that tried. 

After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys had ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approached the ladder to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know “that’s the way it’s always been around here.” 

People sometimes do the same in the workplace. Instead of challenging the status quo, many of us, like the monkeys, simply keep reproducing what has been done before. It’s the easiest thing to do. This also depends to a greater extent on the culture of the company which may or may not encourage innovation or new ideas. If there are no ice water sprayers, there can be innovation.

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About surenraj

“Views expressed are my own”
This entry was posted in Governance and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Governance, Culture and 5 monkeys

  1. Dillip Rajakarier says:

    nice one, really true!

  2. surenraj says:

    Irrespective of whether the experiment took place, I know many who would say it’s true!

  3. Pingback: tha monkey’z and tha water experiment | Moorbey'z Blog

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