Adam feels his organization no longer provides interesting work to their employees. He finds his daily work repetitive and has lost his motivation to reach the workplace with enthusiasm everyday. He works on updating his resume and uploads it on the job portals looking for an interesting job.

We have a lot of Adam’s around, don’t we?

In today’s world, the big corporate organizations provide employment to a vast majority of the population. If the employees were asked how satisfied do they feel about their organization, only a handful would reply in the positive.

Most employees feel that their organizations lack innovation and that their own work is monotonous. Most fail to realize that the change starts from themselves and the work feeling repetitive is only the result of their own complacency.

Here’s a thought-provoking story, where an experiment was conducted by scientists to demonstrate the ease with which a paradigm or a pattern is formed.

Five monkeys were placed in a cage with a ladder in the middle of the room which had bananas on the top. The setup was such that if any monkey attempted to climb up the ladder, all the other monkeys would be given a cold shower of water.

Initially the monkeys had no clue why the cold shower was happening. With a couple of attempts to climb the ladder, eventually all the monkeys figured out the reason behind the cold shower.

After this realization, any time a monkey would try to climb up the ladder, the others would pull it down and beat it up. Of course no monkey likes a cold shower that is uncalled for. It reached a point where no monkey would dare try climbing the ladder, even though the bananas on top looked tasty and tempting.

At this point, the scientists replaced one of the five monkeys. Unaware of the story inside the cage, the monkey immediately tried climbing the ladder. He was in fact wondering why the other monkeys had left the bananas alone. He was stopped and beaten up while the reason did not seem apparent.

After a couple of repeated attempts to climb the ladder, the new monkey learnt to never climb the ladder even though there was no evident reason apart from the bashing received from the other monkeys.

Now a second monkey was replaced and the same occurred. This time the previously substituted monkey participated in the beating of the second monkey even though it did not know why. A third monkey was changed and the same was repeated. Finally all the initial five monkeys were replaced.

What was left was a group of five monkeys that without ever having received a cold shower continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder without any known reason.

Maybe the cold shower did not happen anymore. The current five monkeys did not even receive or see one in the first place. They were simply following an established pattern.

If it was possible to ask the monkeys why they beat up all those who attempted to climb the ladder, their most likely answer would be “I don’t know. It’s just how things are done around here.”

Does it sound familiar?

There are other similar experiments performed on humans like the one below which illustrates the same pattern formation concept without a reason. The monkey paradigm was among the first few to demonstrate this.

 

While these experiments seem funny, we fail to realize how vulnerable we ourselves are to this behavior.

If you ask yourself what is the reason behind you performing a specific task the way you do, you might find yourself being just another monkey following the paradigm.

Don’t we find ourselves doing the same thing everyday without asking our self or others “Is there a better way to do this?”.

It is easy to get carried away in routine thinking that the current way of doing things is the best way, especially when a paycheck is ensured at the end of every month.

In organizations where billing is by the hour, such behavior is even encouraged by the managers themselves. I have first hand witnessed people spending 4–5 hours on a task which can be completed in less than 15 minutes just to increase the billing.

While this might fetch some extra bucks, on the long run it completely destroys the culture of the team, the mindset of the employees and complacency looms large. In no time, this becomes a culture which spells doom to both the organization and the career of the people in them. Enough companies and careers have collapsed due to this mindset.

Do not forget to spend time thinking and innovating. In fact, everyone must set aside at least 30 minutes in a day to spend time thinking alone. Taking time to stay a step ahead is also “real work”. After all, all it takes is one thoughtful spark to get a masterpiece started.

Don’t be like AdamWherever you are and whatever you do, realize that you can always challenge the status quo and it all starts from you.

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