I heard an entertaining parable the other day, illustrating the lighter side of how company policies are written. It’s all about monkeys and fighting – two things especially close to my heart (although I’ve possibly never written about my obsession with spider monkeys before). It’s someone else’s words but I’ll recount it for you, because for all it’s idiocy, it speaks of something that’s on top for me at the moment.
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.
Highly entertaining but so damn true. I commented to someone yesterday about the fact that I’m not always popular at work meetings. When he asked why I told him it’s because I say how I feel. I have been in a couple of interesting situations recently (neither of them at work) where people have sat around talking absolute crap about things they don’t believe, just because that’s what they think everyone else is thinking. It is not only a waste of time, but it fosters bad feeling and encourages people to continue to act in a way that is unproductive or unhealthy. That bugs me big time.
It’s true that most humans fear change to some degree. That’s natural and understandable. But to allow things to continue just because they’ve always been like that causes stagnation which is WAY more dangerous than change.
We all need to think about the way we do things and to make sure we’re doing them for the right reasons. Don’t leave it up to someone else to take a stand. Don’t assume that just because something has always been done a certain way that that’s the best way to do it.
Don’t be a monkey.