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What Can Five Wet Monkeys Teach Us About Creativity?

The Experiment

A group of scientists placed five monkeys in a cage. In the middle, they placed a ladder with bananas on top.

Every time a monkey went up the ladder, the scientists soaked the rest of the monkeys with cold water.

After a while, every time a monkey went up the ladder, the others would beat up the one on the ladder.

After some time, no monkey dare to go up the ladder, no matter the temptation.

Scientists then substituted one of the monkeys, taking one from the cage and replaces him with a new monkey. The new monkey, upon seeing the bananas, went up the ladder. The other monkeys quickly jumped him, beating him.

After several beatings, the new member learned to not climb the ladder, even though he had no idea why.

A second monkey was substituted, and the same thing happened to him, with the first substituted monkey joining in the beating, again, even though he had no idea why. This continued, one by one, each original monkey being replaced with a new monkey. Each time, the new monkey would be beaten as he approached the ladder.

By the end, none of the original monkeys were left; none of the monkeys in the cage had been sprayed with water. But the beatings continued, even though, if they were able to, no monkey could tell you why, except, perhaps, to say, “That’s the way it’s always been done.”

How many things do you do in your everyday life simply because, “That’s the way it’s always been done” ? No, different isn’t always better, but doesn’t it at least seem better to have a little understanding of why you do one thing or another?

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