Author John Gardner once said: “Most ailing organizations have developed a functional blindness to their own defects.” We seem to have more ailing organizations today than at any time in our recordable history. Today, there are a multitude of businesses who are involved with a merger, acquisition, bankruptcy, or simply going out of business.
“Functional blindness” appropriately describes many of today’s company policies. Some are so antiquated it causes one to pause and wonder if anyone ever reads the manual any longer. Where did these ludicrous thoughts, posing as policy, originate?
The National Association of Human Resource Absurdities conducted extensive research in the 50s in hopes of answering that very question. Their findings were both revealing and authenticated via multiple experiments and findings. However, they chose to conceal their findings for the simple reason that they felt society was not ready for such a revelation.
Fifty plus years later they have apparently decided that the business world has matured to the level that the truth can and must finally be accepted. For those of you who may doubt the authenticity of the research results, please feel free to conduct your own experiment. It’s actually very simple.
Begin with a cage containing five monkeys.
Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it.
Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana.
As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the other monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result, and all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon the monkeys will try to prevent it.
Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys 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 monkeys 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! Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth.
Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked. Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know that’s the way it’s always been done around here.