|The deeply encoded lessons of the past that are
passed from one generation of managers to another pose two dangers for an organization.
First, individuals may, over time, forget why then believe what they believe. Second,
managers may come to believe that what they don't know isn't worth knowing.
failure to appreciate the contingent nature of corporate beliefs afflicts many companies.
Yesterday's "good ideas" become today's "policy guidelines"
and tomorrow's mandates." Industry conventions and accepted best
practices assume a life of their own.
Dogmas go unquestioned, and seldom do managers ask how we got this particular
view of organization strategy, competition, or our industry.
Under what environmental conditions did they emerge? On what are our beliefs
contingent? The result is a wholly inappropriate reverence for precedent.
Let us illustrate.
A friend of ours once described an experiment with monkeys. Four monkeys were
put into a room. In the center of the room was a tall pole with a bunch of bananas
suspended from the top. One particularly hungry monkey eagerly scampered up the pole,
intent on retrieving a banana.
Just as he reached out to grasp the banana, he was hit with torrent of cold
water from an overhead shower. With a squeal, the monkey abandoned its quest and retreated
down the pole.
Each monkey attempted, in turn, to secure the bananas.
Each received an equally chilly shower, and each scampered down without the prize. After
repeated drenchings, the monkeys finally gave up on the bananas.
With the primates thus conditioned, one of the original four was removed from
the experiment and a new monkey added.
No sooner had this new, innocent monkey started up the pole than his (or her)
companions reached up and yanked the creature back down the pole. The monkey got the
message; don t climb that pole.
After a few such aborted attempts, but without ever having received a cold
shower, the new monkey stopped trying to get the bananas. One by one, each of the original
monkeys was replaced. Each new monkey learned the same lesson: Don't climb the pole.
Not one of the new monkeys ever made it to the top of the pole; none even got
so far as a cold shower. Not one understood precisely why pole climbing was discouraged,
but they all respected the well-established precedent Even after the shower was removed,
no monkey ventured up the pole.
"Competing for the Future "
by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad
"Experience is a good teacher but her fees are high."
Avoid the high fees . . .
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