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How can a story about a few monkeys challenge the way we think about how and why policies, processes, and cultures are created?

When a colleague asks you why you do things a certain way, do you find yourself responding, “I don’t know. We’ve always done it that way?”

Many years ago, I worked for a couple companies where that was the stock answer, and it was so frustrating. It’s hard to believe that no one ever challenged the status quo. Or perhaps they did and got shot down with the same stock answer? Why do we just accept things as they are, right or wrong, regardless of the how or the why? Regardless of whether they are still relevant or appropriate?

Have you heard of the Five Monkeys Experiment? It’s not clear if this experiment really happened or not; many refer to it as a fable or parable, but it’s interesting and thought-provoking, nonetheless. In case you haven’t heard of this experiment yet, I’ll introduce you to it. Rather than write the story, I thought it would be more interesting to share this brief video of Eddie Obeng, a British professor and author, telling it.

That’s just the way we do things around here.” Hmm. That’s one of my least favorite sentences ever. It doesn’t make things right, just because they’ve always been done that way. How can we keep doing the same things when we don’t even know why we’re doing them? Are we afraid to change? Or afraid of change?

I think that statement is a culture killer, an innovation killer, an employee experience killer, and a customer experience killer. Companies change. Employees change. Customers change. We need to regularly revisit rules, policies, processes, and approaches in order to ensure that they are still relevant and that we deliver a great experience for both employees and customers.

Don’t keep things status quo for the sake of comfort, convenience, or keeping things status quo. If you keep doing the same thing, you’re going to keep getting the same results, right? With some of the statistics about customer experience as bad as they continue to be, I think companies are continuing to do the same thing. It’s time to start asking some serious questions. And not being afraid of the answers – or the consequences and changes as a result.

I wrote previously that if companies are constantly asking questions, they can:

  • Learn more about their customers and employees
  • Better understand customer and employee needs
  • Learn about partners, the market, emerging trends, etc.
  • Ideate and innovate
  • Create new/better products, features, and services
  • Eliminate processes and policies that are harmful to the experience
  • Change the way they do business (for the better)

Don’t stifle or squash new ideas just because they aren’t what “you usually do.” Stop the trend of the blind leading the blind. Get out of the rut and start asking some serious questions.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -Albert Einstein