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The Five Monkeys

Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs underneath 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 awhile, another monkey makes the 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 prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace that monkey with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and another attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another one of the original 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 are not permitted to climb the stairs or why or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. After replacing all of 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.

And that, my friends, is how company policy begins.


{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Lone Wolf April 30, 2007, 15:55

    I have heard this before. Although I am a firm believer in the behavior pattern that it suggests, part of me wonders if this is just some urban legend or if this was actually a study that was done. If it was a study, I would be interested to know when and by whom. If anyone ont there knows, I am curious to know the answer.

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