Thursday, August 12

Start with a cage containing five monkeys.

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 of the other monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result - all the other monkeys are sprayed 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 the 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 policy begins.
-- Don't know the original author or where this came from, but it was posted on a Listserv I belong to, and I thought it was great. If anyone knows where this originally came from, please post in the comments so I can attribute it.
However, I think this really exemplifies some points that I've said for years. Just because "That's the way it's always been" doesn't mean that's the way it always needs to be done. Examine the status quo, and if you can try and make it better, do so.

6 comments:

Sumit said...

That's the way we usually work. People get so busy in the day to day activities that no one has time and temperament to think what they are doing and why :)

Pi said...

Good one.. don't think there is a particular author of this. From what I remember, this was an experiment shown on Discovery.

Sumit4u said...

That's the way we usually work. People get so busy in the day to day activities that no one has time and temperament to think what they are doing and why :)

Joel Esler said...

Good point there. There's a why to everything, if things can be made better, they should be.

Jeff said...

They forgot the part where the manager of the monkeys pays extra to get the new monkey on board because the old ones don't try new things anymore...

MikeP said...

The tubes are full of people trying to get a source for this story. As far as I know, it's apocryphal, which isn't to say it isn't a good fable.