Don’t listen to those monkeys…Keep climbing!

Ever step back and evaluate why you made a certain decision?

Do you ever feel like there should be a better decision or more lucrative outcome to your decision?

Here is an exercise for you:

Take a second to dig into whether YOU truly made the decision or were you influenced by those in your organization or peer group?

So, did you solely make the decision or did you find yourself saying something like: “well, that’s how we always do it.”

Well I am reminded of an experiment I recently learned about…

Whether it really happened or not…I don’t know, but it goes something like this:

A group of scientists placed five monkeys in a cage, and in the middle, a ladder with bananas on top.

Every time a monkey went up the ladder, the scientists soaked the rest of the monkeys with cold water.

After a while, every time a monkey would start up the ladder, the others would pull it down and beat it up.

After a time, no monkey would dare try climbing the ladder, no matter how great the temptation.

The scientists then decided to replace one of the monkeys. The first thing this new monkey did was start to climb the ladder. Immediately, the others pulled him down and beat him up.

After several beatings, the new monkey learned never to go up the ladder, even though there was no evident reason not to, aside from the beatings.

The second monkey was substituted and the same occurred. The first monkey participated in the beating of the second monkey. A third monkey was changed and the same was repeated. The fourth monkey was changed, resulting in the same, before the fifth was finally replaced as well.

What was left was a group of five monkeys that – without ever having received a cold shower – continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder.

The validity of the experiment is irrelevant, but I think its lesson or moral is valid.

How often in our lives, whether at work, or school, or insert any organization…

While working with a group of people have you heard the following: “It’s just how things are done around here.”

Our organizational cultures are shaped by this very behavior. We mimic the behaviors of those we are surrounded with as to not stick out nor go against the grain, thereby in turn receiving negative judgement from our peers.

Next time you feel your actions on autopilot, or you find yourself making life choices based on what has the least resistance…

It’s the perfect time to think about the monkey experiment and ask yourself the question…

Why can’t I climb the ladder? What will really happen if I do?

I think organizations would benefit by having more monkeys ask this question and test some boundaries.

Even if at one point there was a negative consequence to an action, our playing fields these days are evolving so fast and changing so rapidly, it may no longer derive the same outcome.

If we aren’t willing or able to test the boundaries, our outcomes will remain predictable. Nothing changes, and we all remain satisfied with status quo.

I am not satisfied.

Go be a curious monkey.


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