Monkeys & Culture

I heard someplace that if you are stuck on a problem, to go clean something. That’s what I did the other day and came across some old files and found this inside one of them.

The author is unknown however it does speak to that age old question.

“How do we change the culture?” or even better “How are Paradigms Formed”

The article doesn’t provide answers, it does provide clues. Better understanding how the culture was started might provide us with some direction as to how to change it.

Monkeys & Culture

Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all the other monkeys with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then a fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked. Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no-monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana.

Why not? Because as far as they know that’s the way it’s always been done around here. And that, my friends, is how a company policy begins and cultural habits are born.

Interested in your thoughts about cultural change and the steps that you have done. It’s time to think out of the box…

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