This is apparently a true story. A real study. Scientists studying behaviour placed 5 monkeys in a cage. This cage has a ladder. At the top of the ladder is a bunch of bananas. Big, ripe, juicy bananas.
The cage is also fitted with some heavy duty sprinklers that, when activated, would absolutely drench the monkeys.
As soon as the monkeys spot the bananas at the top of the ladder. They quickly start the climb up. As soon as they do, the scientists turn on the sprinklers and drench the monkeys. Really drench them.
The monkeys quickly retreat.
But, as you’d expect, soon enough the monkeys resolve to try again.
Up the ladder they go. Sure enough, as soon as they begin the scientists hit the sprinkler button and all the monkeys get drenched again.
Over the next few days the monkeys try at irregular intervals to try and grab the bananas. Sometimes they’ll all climb, other times just one or 2. But the result is always the same…the monkeys end up completely drenched and retreating.
Eventually the monkeys give up on this obviously hopeless task.
And Now It Gets Interesting
And now it gets interesting. You see, what the scientists do is remove one of the original monkeys. In his place they put in a new monkey.
As you would expect, the new monkey spots the bananas and immediately pounces on the ladder. But he doesn’t get far… the other monkeys immediately jump on him to stop him climbing the ladder.
The new monkey tries again and again – always being dragged down by the other monkeys.
Eventually he gives up trying.
The scientists then take out another of the original monkeys and replace him with another new monkey.
Same thing happens. The newest monkey spots the bananas and starts to climb. The other monkeys all aggressively grab him and jump on him to prevent him climbing the ladder.
Just like with the previous monkey, this newest monkey keeps trying with the same result – being dragged down by the others – until he too eventually gives up.
All Original Monkeys Removed
Over time, every single one of the original monkeys is removed.
And new monkeys replace each original monkey as it is removed from the cage.
Every new monkey placed in the cage tries to climb the ladder. But each time it is dragged down by the others. Every single time.
Why? Not one of the monkeys knows. But it’s “how things are done around here.”
You might have seen, like I have, something similar in action in companies we’ve all worked for.
You’ll go to do something and you’ll be advised not to because “That’s not how we do things here.”
If you do try something different, something daring, something innovative then quite often others will drag you down.
“That’s not how we do things here.”
Just like with the monkeys.
Culture Of A Business
The culture of a business is a very fragile thing. It’s never developed by a manager with a thick document folder. And it’s not developed from a memo stating how the culture will develop. It’s developed by the people in the business. The monkeys if you like.
Sometimes they’ll drag others down without knowing why. “It’s just how we do things around here.”
Others times it can develop so perfectly that you’ll wonder at it all. You see, the culture of a business develops from the people in the business. From their example. Their passion. And their beliefs. The culture of a business develops from the ground up and grows.
The culture of a business has enormous influence over the behaviour of the team and the ultimate experience of the customer.
Get it right and your business will bloom… and you may even get yourself a free banana!