The Monkey Experiment that Will Teach You How the World Works

Are you a person who can easily adjust to things or do you tend to question everything?

Are you someone who’s ready to struggle and get creative to come up with solutions to your problems? Or do you tend to comply with how things are usually being done?

Eddie Obeng, a business educator, in one of his numerous talks, talked about a fable, known as the monkey experiment that apparently taught a lot of people a crucial lesson.

Here’s the experiment story- let’s check it out together!

The Monkey Experiment: What Is It?

One group of scientists put 5 monkeys in one cage and in the middle; they placed a ladder with bananas on top of it. Each time a monkey went up the ladder, the scientists soaked the other monkeys in cold water.

After some period, every time a monkey went up the ladder, the other one began to beat up the one on the ladder.

Afterwards, no monkey dared to go up the ladder, no matter their temptation. The scientists then made a decision to replace one of the monkeys. The first thing the monkey did was, you guessed it, went up the ladder.

Right away, the other monkeys beat him up and after several beatings, the new monkey stopped going up the ladder, even though it wasn’t sure why.

When the second monkey was replaced with another one, the same thing happened. The first monkey beat up the second monkey.

Then, they replaced the third monkey and the fourth and the fifth. The new group of 5 monkeys, even though they weren’t the ones that received the cold shower, they continued beating up every monkey that tried to go up the ladder.

If we could ask the monkeys and if they could answer us why they beat the monkey that tried to climb the ladder, probably they’d say that ‘I don’t know, that’s how things are done around here’.

Boys and girls, does this sound familiar?

What Is the Goal of the Monkey’s Experiment?

The goal of the business educator was to explain how things are in most organizations in the world and to teach his followers that we can always try and improve.

However, this isn’t a real experiment- it’s a made-up story that first appeared in the book Competing for the Future by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad.

Anyway, the monkey’s experiment still delivers a powerful message-made-up or not.

It reminds us to think for ourselves and to stop thinking ‘we’ve always done it this way’ when we feel something isn’t right. Remember, just because someone is doing something, it doesn’t mean that’s the right thing for you.

Although a lot of workers are often advised to get creative and cooperative, they’re often showered with cold water when trying new ways, different from the routine.

Surely, respecting and keeping up with traditions is important; however, if we’re discouraged to pursue ideas and get creative, what are we doing?

When we keep our focus on how things have been done, we can never bring positive change, newer and fresher strategies, and improve.




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