Posted by: Rob | October 14, 2009

Company Culture

Our employer is a company now highly dependent upon work processes. A colleague told me today about this past weekend’s Dilbert strip. (It’s probably true of most workplaces, but Dilbert creater Scott Adams has uncannily drawn Dilbert strips about subjects going on in my workplace at the time it was happening. It’s almost like he works here.)

I’m going to admit right off that I did not write the following and I can’t identify the author, but it’s a bang on assessment of company culture and applies so well to the state of things today:

There is a risk in any company culture.

The chimpanzee theorem:

Put twenty chimps in a room.  Attach a banana to the ceiling and place a ladder in order that the chimps could reach the banana.  Make sure the ladder is the only way to get to the banana.

Install a sprinkler system that starts spraying ice-cold water as soon as a chimp tries to climb the ladder.  The chimps will very quickly learn not to use the ladder.

Next, shut off  the sprinkler system, so that climbing the ladder no longer has any consequences.  Replace one of the original twenty chimps with a new one.

The new chimp will immediately try to reach the banana by using the ladder, but will get beaten by the other nineteen chimps … without knowing the reason for the beating.

Replace a second original chimp with another new one.  This second new chimp will also immediately try to reach the banana using the ladder, only to be set upon by the other chimps and the chimp beating the hardest is the one that was beaten himself, the first new chimp.

Keep replacing the original chimps until none of them remain.  From now on, no chimp even thinks about climbing the ladder.  And if one tries, he will be dealt with by the others.

The most peculiar fact now is that no chimp actually knows why the ladder must not be climbed.

…and this is how a company culture starts.

Pure.  Genius.


  1. wow. mr. adams is stalking me as well… the chimp analogy? makes me realize that i’m one of the beaten monkeys as well… “we already tried that” is the mantra of the cynical damned…

  2. This is how you got to be the Arch-Bishop of Keitholicism!

    I reckon so.

  3. Religions too – – –

    Not just business cultures – although there may not be an actual difference!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: