“TWWADI” - The Way We’ve Always Done It

Article Posted on 08/07/2019

This story begins with a cage containing five healthy apes. In the cage hung a banana on a string with stairs under it. Before too long, one of the apes went to the stairs and began climbing up to capture the banana. As soon as he touched the stairs, all of the apes were violently sprayed with ice cold water by a trainer standing nearby. After a while, another ape made an attempt up the stairs to reach the banana. Again, as soon as he touched the stairs, all the apes were viciously sprayed with ice cold water.

Pretty soon, when another ape tried to climb the stairs, the other four apes beat him and prevented him from getting close to the stairs. They did not want to be sprayed with ice cold water again!

The next day, one ape was removed from the cage and replace with a new one. The new ape sees the banana and tries to climb the stairs. To his horror, all of the other apes attack him. After another attempt (and attack) 10 minutes later, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs to obtain the banana, he will be assaulted but he is not sure as to the actual reason. The other four do not want to be sprayed with ice cold water!

The following day, a second ape was removed and replaced with another new one. The newcomer immediately goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the attack with enthusiasm even though he has no idea why he is doing it.

On the third day, another ape is removed and replace with a new one. There are now two “old ones” and three “newcomers.” This new ape goes to the stairs and is attacked violently by the other four. Two of the apes attacking the newcomer have no idea why they are 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 on the next two consecutive days, all of the apes which had been sprayed with the cold water had been replaced. Nevertheless, no ape ever again approached the stairs even though they were never sprayed with cold water as a deterrent.

This is a story that I like to use from time to time because it is funny, yet serious. It also helps bring up some important points that need to be reviewed from time to time.

  • There are reasons we have some things that we don’t change. We need to sometimes believe in the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” because it seems that all too often we are overanxious to change things that don’t need to be changed. A lot of things here have been going very well for decades. Some things need to continue to be improved.
  • It is good, however, to look at things from time to time and analyze why we do what we do and if there are ways we could do it better. All successful people and teams do this and should continue to do so.
  • As you analyze your role within your team, and your relationship with your teammates/colleagues, keep in mind there is always more than one way to get something done. Have confidence in what you do and how you do it, but try to be supportive if others do things in a different manner. None of us are completely alike and that is a good thing. Don’t be afraid to try new things, to improve something you have done for a while, etc.

This isn’t 1981 anymore . . . . whether we like it or not, some things have changed and will continue to change . . . .

Kopsa Otte
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