It’s Always Been Done This Way

October 22, 2008

A group of scientists put five monkeys in a cage. In the center of the cage was a step ladder, and a banana was hung from the very top. The monkeys scurried up the ladder to retrieve the banana and then the scientists sprayed them with freezing cold water to prevent them from reaching it. Each time they tried to go up the ladder, they were again sprayed until none of the monkeys went up the ladder.

The scientists removed one monkey from the cage and replaced it with a new monkey. The new monkey saw the banana, saw the ladder and attempted to go up. The four original monkeys, afraid of being sprayed with water, assaulted the new guy to prevent him from going up the ladder. He had no idea why he was being attacked but he didn't go up the ladder again.

A second original monkey was removed from the cage and replaced with a new one. Same thing: the new monkey attempts to go up the ladder to retrieve the banana, and once again, this newest monkey is assaulted. Except this time, the first new monkey takes part in the beating of the newest monkey. He has no idea why he is participating in the beating, but nevertheless it happened to him.

This process of bringing in new monkeys continues until there are no original ones in the cage that were sprayed with cold water. But no monkey in this now completely new group dares go up the ladder out of fear of being assaulted, not sprayed with cold water. Again, it's always been done this way!

Thanks to my co-worker Mark for pointing out this story. I'm sure several of you already knew of its existence. I sure felt this applied to the business of content management and incorporating new systems in general for companies. Think about content server's WebDAV capability. You install content server at company X. "Can we still look at it with folders?" they ask? Why? Because that's how they do it today, that's how they've always done it…

© 2020 Jason Stortz (version 20200607-210013)