Don’t be a monkey

This is an oft repeated story, and I’m going to repeat it here:

Take a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hangs a bunch of bananas reachable via a ladder.

Being monkeys, before long one will go to climb the ladder. As soon as he touches the first rung, spray all of the monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt to reach the the bananas. Soak them all again.

After a while any attempt by any monkey to climb the ladder will be prevented by the other monkeys.

There is no longer any need for the water.

Extract one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey heads towards the step ladder only to be attacked and stopped by the other monkeys. After a few attempts the new monkey learns that if he makes his way to the ladder he will be assaulted by the remaining monkeys.

Repeatedly remove another of the original monkeys, replacing it with a new one. Each newcomer goes through the same process and this time is attacked by both the remaining oringal monkeys and the recent newcomer(s). Each newcomer learns both that you don’t climb the ladder, and that it is good to stop others from doing the same.

Eventually all of the original five monkeys have been replaced. The five new monkeys do not know why it is a bad thing to climb the ladder, yet they persist in enforcing the rule.

Why? Because that’s the way it’s always been around here.

This is something that I’m sure happens in all organisations. I suspect that it is worse in countries with loose employment laws and bad bosses discourage people from challenging the status quo. Nevertheless, it really irks me something rotten when I hear people explain things with “that’s how we’ve always done it.”

For goodness sakes, if you don’t understand why, find out.
If you don’t think it’s right, do something about it.

Don’t be a monkey.


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