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monkeys bananas ladder and water spray

Are you working with monkeys? Are you one?

Put five monkeys in a cage with a ladder in the middle. Dangle a banana just above the ladder. Every time a monkey tries to climb the ladder to get the banana, spray the other monkeys with jets of freezing cold water.

After a while, you’ll see that every monkey that gets near the ladder will be pulled away by the other monkeys, who, obviously, don’t want to get soaked with cold water.

Now, take out one monkey, and replace it with a new one, one that doesn’t know the existing rules. Watch as he tries to climb the ladder (because who doesn’t want a banana?) and gets pulled down by his fellow monkeys – because they know what will happen.

Wait a bit, then take out another monkey, and replace him with a new one.

Repeat this process until you have five monkeys who none of which were part of the original experiment.

And they still won’t climb the ladder.

They all know that it isn’t allowed, even though none of them were ever sprayed with water.

And that’s how company culture is created.

The same goes for meetings you set up. Everybody KNOWS that you can’t have one without the CEO – they just aren’t really sure why. Everyone KNOWS that hour long meetings can go on for as long as necessary, even if it’s just the CMO rambling about the latest stock market update. Everyone KNOWS that meetings are just there to get in the way of real work, not a way to get work done more efficiently. And everyone knows that you don’t need an agenda, or even a goal, to set up a meeting involving half the company. You’ll probably think up a good reason on the way there.

But company culture and meeting culture can be changed.

So be the first to set an example! Next meeting, start off with sending the agenda two days early, and inviting five people instead of the usual fifteen. Then record what goes on, and send a task list once the meeting is over.

We think you’ll be amazed at the amount of change you can make.

*the monkey story has no specific origin, but there are quite a few references to it on Google.