Five monkeys, a ladder, bananas and some cold water


You may well be wondering what monkeys, a ladder, bananas and some cold water could have to do with usage and adoption of technology.

The title is derived from an alleged psychology experiment. (There is a strong belief this experiment never took place.)

A brief summary of the experiment is outlined below:

Five monkeys were placed in a cage. A ladder was then put in the middle of the cage with bananas on top.

Each time a monkey climbed the ladder to get the bananas the rest of the monkeys were soaked with cold water.

Over time subsequent attempts by any one monkey to climb the ladder would result in a beating from the other monkeys.

One of the existing five monkeys was replaced – this new monkey saw the ladder and the bananas and attempted to climb. This provoked an instant reaction from the other monkeys and the new monkey was severely beaten. Over time and successive beatings the new monkey learned not to climb the ladder.

Each of the original monkeys were successively replaced until none of the monkeys who had been soaked with cold water remained. In spite of this, any attempt to climb the ladder resulted in a beating and no monkey ever attempted to climb the ladder.

A similar behaviour exists in the workplace – we accept existing workflows and practices without question. Time passes, people and technology change, but for many organisations work practices and workflows remain the same.

As you implement new communications and collaboration technologies in your organisation, you must evaluate the need to change existing work practices, or at the very least question them, to validate they are taking full advantage of the technology investment.

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