mfeDXvWThis is a true account of an experiment carried out to find out about monkeys behaviour.   It sounds a bit cruel, but I’m retelling it because it’s not just monkeys that it happens to.

The researchers started with a cage containing five monkeys.  In the cage, a banana was hung from the roof with a set of steps under it. Before long, a monkey goes to the stairs and starts to climb towards the banana. When he touches the stairs, all the monkeys are sprayed with with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result – all the monkeys are sprayed with cold water.  Soon, when any monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys prevent it.

Next, one monkey is removed from the cage and replaced with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his horror, all the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Then another of the original five monkeys is removed and replaced with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.  Again a third original monkey is replaced with a new one.  The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked as well.

Two of the four monkeys that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the steps, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.  After replacing the fourth and fifth original monkeys, all the monkeys that have been sprayed with cold water have been replaced.  Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the steps.  Why not?  Because that’s the way, we always do things here.

And that’s how innovation and creativity are unintentionally stifled in many organisations.  At a time when we are experiencing change that is more profound and more rapid than at any time since the industrial revolution encouraging people to be creative is vital.

The main differentiation between companies today is the degree to which they can harness innovation. This is at its most effective in companies with a well-defined and communicated strategy being implemented by motivated and skilled people.

If doing what you are doing isn’t working you need to do something different. So what are you doing in your organisation to innovate and be creative?

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