Recently, a miraculous arctic dig uncovered a perfectly frozen, preserved village of cavemen.
Start with a cage containing five newly thawed cavemen. In the cage, build a set of stairs to some food at the top. Allow one of the cavemen to go up the stairs towards the food. As soon as he gets the food, violently spray all the other cavemen with ice cold water.
After a while, allow another hungry caveman to get some food. Violently spray the rest of the cavemen with cold water.
Repeat the process until all the cavemen have tried to get some food.
With all this repetitive training, when any of these five starving cavemen tries to climb the stairs, the other cavemen will restrain and possibly beat the one trying to get some food because they know the consequences. The hunger is not enough reward for the punishment of the ice water spray.
Now make two small changes: replace one caveman with a newly thawed caveman from the village and eliminate the cold water spray.
Watch the brand new starving caveman go for food. Without understanding the history and the training, he will get mercilessly pulled off the stairs. There is no explanation. After a few attempts, he knows not to go for the food.
Now replace another original caveman with a brand new caveman. Without understanding why, that first replacement caveman will now participate in the brutal restraint of this second new caveman. He doesn’t know why. He was never even been sprayed with the water. He just knows that when he tries to get the food, he is beaten and restrained. So now with this second new caveman, he willingly joins in on the violence.
All the original five cavemen will be replaced one by one. Eventually, no one in the cage will have ever been violently sprayed with ice cold water. But each time a brand new caveman is introduced into the cage, he learns not to go up the stairs for the food. He also learns to participate in any physical cruelty necessary to keep the new caveman off the stairs.
Why? Because that’s the way it’s always been around here and no one knows why.
And that’s how CORPORATE POLICIES AND PROCESSES are developed.
epilogue: this thought experiment is not mine. I adapted it from a piece I randomly read at least a decade ago online. To the guy who originally wrote about the monkeys going for the bananas: you are my HERO.
My name is Dae Yu.