Monday, August 22, 2011

With a Nod to Dilbert, Monkeys and Organizational Politics

I've been working with corporations for decades. The things I have seen, the stories I could tell....

Well, all you have to do is read the papers. There are so many stories about executives making self-serving decisions that hurt employees, stockholders, and employees - not to mention the economy.

Got to be careful. This could lead to a rant. Whenever I get started, my business partner cuts me off. "I've heard all this before, and I don't need to hear it again. Can't you talk about something positive?"

So instead, in the spirit of the cartoon strip Dilbert, I'll share this little story I found on the web (source unknown). Apparently, it's based on actual research:

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.

Sound familiar?

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength .


Sarcastic Bastard said...

Great analogy, and yes, it sounds familiar.

Anonymous said...

That's why I always question the norm...nothing is never "status quo" with me! Thx, it is a good analogy.