The New Monkey in the Office
We’ve all been the “noob” at one point in our lives. Being a new face in an office can be awfully stressful or extremely exciting, and usually both. But while we’re wandering around trying to figure out where the bathroom is, we don’t usually think about the responsibility that comes with being the new guy.
I’m one of Jellyvision’s new summer interns, and we’ve been getting trained and on-boarded and introduced to important Jellyvision personnel. Within the first couple days in the office, we JellyInterns also had a chat with the CEO, Amanda Lannert. She talked about kindness, honesty, trust, and respect. Rather than listing objectives and expectations, she asked us to make an oath to value our fresh perspective and not be afraid to speak up with opinions. Amanda then told us of a famous study about five monkeys and a banana.
The short version:
- There are 5 monkeys in a cage with swings, tires, toys…and bananas hanging from a hook at the top of a ladder.
- 1 monkey went for the bananas, and the experimenter hosed all the monkeys with cold water.
- Another monkey decided to try retrieving the bananas, and all the monkeys were hosed with cold water.
- The 5 monkeys gave up on the bananas.
- The experimenter replaced one of the monkeys with a fresh monkey.
- The new monkey went for the bananas, and before he could touch them, the other 4 monkeys attacked!
- Another monkey was replaced.
- The new monkey also went for the bananas, and was attacked by the 4 other monkeys – including the monkey that was never sprayed with the cold water.
- This was repeated until all the original monkeys were replaced. Each time a monkey would go for the bananas, he was attacked by all the other monkeys – even though none of the monkeys had actually witnessed the hosing.
Why Amanda told us this kinda sad story about monkeys:
The experiment created a monkey culture where monkeys won’t touch bananas, and none of them really knew why! This happens in company cultures all the time, where new employees suggest changes to the status quo and are met with resistance, and the rationale is “because that’s how we do things here.”
As intelligent professionals (noob or not), we want to do things because they make sense, not because that’s how they’ve always been done, right? So from now on, let’s agree to ask questions and not be afraid to test the norm. Together, let’s channel our inner 4-year-old and ask why, why, why, why, why?
Ok, that’s enough. Go ask your mother.