Monkey Business

An experimenter puts 5 monkeys in a large cage. High up at the top of the cage, well beyond the reach of the monkeys, is a bunch of bananas. Underneath the bananas is a ladder.

The monkeys immediately spot the bananas and one begins to climb the ladder. As he does, however, the experimenter sprays him with a stream of cold water. Then, he proceeds to spray each of the other monkeys.

The monkey on the ladder scrambles off. And all 5 sit for a time on the floor, wet, cold, and bewildered. Soon, though, the temptation of the bananas is too great, and another monkey begins to climb the ladder. Again, the experimenter sprays the ambitious monkey with cold water and all the other monkeys as well. When a third monkey tries to climb the ladder, the other monkeys, wanting to avoid the cold spray, pull him off the ladder and beat him.

Now one monkey is removed and a new monkey is introduced to the cage. Spotting the bananas, he naively begins to climb the ladder. The other monkeys pull him off and beat him.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The experimenter removes a second one of the original monkeys from the cage and replaces him with a new monkey. Again, the new monkey begins to climb the ladder and, again, the other monkeys pull him off and beat him – including the monkey who had never been sprayed.

By the end of the experiment, none of the original monkeys were left and yet, despite none of them ever experiencing the cold, wet, spray, they had all learned never to try and go for the bananas.

This metaphor is used to discuss how upper management could control the atmosphere at work by shooting down any new ideas. Possibly this could cause your coworkers to join in to hinder your chances at trying something new to achieve a goal or bring new results.

Now I don’t have a way to relate to this at work. But, I think we all can relate to this experiment with the way things are in everyday life.

We’ve seen so many people get beat up about their choices to try something different. Have you ever seen someone try something new? Almost every time people can’t wait to jump onboard to gossip or talk bad about them. That’s nothing more than people showing they have insecurities. If you want someone else to fail whether it’s at work, or in their life, it’s 99.9% of the time because you feel so bad about your own performance or your own life, you don’t want anyone else to succeed.

When was it we stopped supporting people? I can’t think of a time someone else’s success made me look bad. Can you? Imagine how much we could do if we supported each other. How we could live with less stress, how things could become so much easier for everyone. How success could be taken to all new levels by having so much support behind it.

We’ve got to do something different. We’ve got to support each other.

The problem is, who’s going to try and climb the ladder first?

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