Five Monkeys and a Banana

In the late 1960’s an experiment was done on a group of five monkeys. They were put in a cage and in the middle of the cage was a ladder where some bananas were placed. If a monkey went up the ladder to get the bananas, the other four monkeys were doused with cold water. The monkeys quickly learned what was happening and if any one of them even started to go up the ladder the others would grab him and chastise him verbally and physically.

After a period of time, one of the monkeys was removed and a new monkey replaced him. Obviously, when the new monkey saw the bananas he started up the ladder and the other four monkeys proceeded to stop him. Each monkey was eventually replaced so that there were five monkeys in the cage but none of them had ever actually been doused with cold water. Even so, no monkey would go up the ladder for the bananas because the other four would stop him. If you could have asked the monkeys why they stopped each other from going up to get the bananas they would not know why. It just simply is what they did.

So how does this relate to our discussions about innovation? We have been looking at the power of ideas and oftentimes when someone comes up with an idea (“Hey, let’s go get those bananas!”), others around stop him or her. If you were to ask why, you may hear the answer, “Well, that’s not how we do it around here.” How often does an idea get shot down because we are not willing to try something new or step out of our comfort zone?

In our families, our school, our companies, and our organizations, we need to be willing to listen to ideas and be open to new paradigms. You never know, if we are more open to new ideas there just might be a bunch of bananas waiting for us.

Karl Steinkamp
iHOS Blog #7
Day 7 of 30


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