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Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Change with Time

Conversation between father & son
Father: Don’t do this on Fridays.
Boy: Why should I not do it on Fridays.
Father: Don’t ask questions. This is how it should be done & always has been done.
We all would have heard this or a similar conversation time and again in our homes.  Read ahead and find out how the following experiment is similar to above conversation.
Primate Committee Thinking Experiment
NOTE: Don't try this with your own apes.
Start with a cage containing five apes.  In the cage, hang a banana on a string and put stairs under it.  Before long, an ape will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the Banana.  As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the apes with cold water.  After a while, another ape makes an attempt with the same result - all the apes are sprayed with cold water.  Turn off the cold water.
If, later, another ape tries to climb the stairs, the other apes will try to prevent it even though no water sprays them.
Now, remove one ape from the cage and replace it with a new one.  The New ape sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs.  To his horror, all of the other apes attack him.  After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.
Next, remove another of the original five apes 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.
Again, replace a third original ape with a new one.  The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked as well.  Two of the four apes that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest ape.
After replacing the fourth and fifth original apes, all the apes which have been sprayed with cold water have been replaced.
Nevertheless, no ape ever again approaches the stairs.  Why not?
"Because that's the way it's always been around here."
Sound familiar?
Most of us would have come across this attitude in our life.  It would have happened in our home, work or in social environment.
The reasons for such a negative attitude may vary. Here are a few of them:
1.    Some love to stay in the comfort of using known methods, even if it takes longer (like the above Primate excuse “That’s the way it’s always been around here.”)
2.    Some people focus on finishing the current task, rather than becoming efficient in the long run.  There is no exploration for quicker or easier methods.
3.    Someone Else’s Idea syndrome (SEI syndrome – pun unintentional).  Many people tend to not use a better method, simply because it was passed on to them from a peer / junior.  Their ego prevents them from using the better process.  (As an aside, did Americans come up with SEI because ISO was someone else’s – European – idea?).
4.    Some people love to exercise their muscles more than their brain & are adamant about it.
It is important to discourage such attitude among friends & colleagues.  We should encourage people to look out for chances of improvement.  Efficiency and effectiveness on the job must be constantly improved.
Action Plan
1.    Discourage people from using the “history” excuse.
2.    Don’t allow people to follow processes blindly.  Ask why a method was chosen & its merits.
3.    Encourage people to work smart, rather than work hard.
4.    Inculcate a good atmosphere to share ideas & encourage healthy competition.
5.    Give credit / reward for learning new methods.
6.    Give time for creativity & don’t add too much of pressure to deliver (pressure forces people to finish the job at hand rather than look for improvement).
7.    Push people to automate manual tasks.
After all, in this fast world, the quick learners and efficient people will shoot ahead fast.  Such people will also take the whole team / company along, given the right environment & impetus.


  1. Vrvd great article. This happens quite often but you do give a way around it. Thanks for sharing. I am glad to see step by step guidance in this area.

  2. Thank you for your kind comments...