Five monkeys are in a cage with a bunch of bananas hanging from the roof. When a step ladder is placed under the bananas, one of the monkeys starts to climb it. Whenever a monkey climbs the ladder, all the monkeys are immediately hosed down with cold water. From that point on, if a monkey attempts to climb the ladder, the other monkeys beat it up.

The experimenters then remove one monkey and introduce a new monkey. The new monkey starts to approach the ladder and the others beat it up. Soon the new monkey stops approaching the ladder. One at a time, the other monkeys are changed out.

Even at the point when all the monkeys in the cage have never experienced the ice water, they don’t approach the ladder. They don’t know why, but they know that approaching the ladder is not done.

What change lesson have the monkeys learned? “We’ve always done it that way.” Although no one can explain why, the culture has established “dos” and “don’t dos.” Even new members of such a group will find it difficult to challenge the status quo.

How do you cope with a culture that promotes the same old practices? Speak up. How you do that depends greatly upon your level of organizational leadership. Regardless of your role, resist the urge to leap to quick change. Ask questions and listen carefully. Learn all you can about the processes and systems in place, including the rationale for current operations. This knowledge will allow you to decide where to start and seek input about the best ways to change.

 Been successful in combating “we’ve always done it that way?” Comment below or message us.

Photo by Inès d’Anselme on Unsplash.