Values and Culture

Values are the building blocks of any organization and earlier we’ve discussed they are an integral part of a human being and how they help one connect to an organization.

Values are perspectives about an appropriate course of action. If a person values honesty, then he or she will strive to be honest. People who value transparency will work hard to be transparent. Values are the one important element that affects individual character and behaviour towards others. The relationship between values and behaviour is intimate, as values greatly influence behaviour and actions.

For example, if an organization doesn’t encourage new ideas or inspire employees to speak up, then what kind of work environment and culture are they creating?

An experiment that comes to mind when we speak of creating culture is where 5 monkeys were put into a large cage. High up at the top of the cage, well beyond the reach of the monkeys, is a bunch of bananas. Underneath the bananas is a ladder.

The monkeys immediately spot the bananas and one begins to climb the ladder. As he does, however, the experimenter sprays him with a stream of cold water. Then, he proceeds to spray each of the other monkeys.

The monkey on the ladder scrambles off. And all 5 sit for a time on the floor, wet, cold, and bewildered. Soon, though, the temptation of the bananas is too great, and another monkey begins to climb the ladder. Again, the experimenter sprays the ambitious monkey with cold water and all the other monkeys as well. When a third monkey tries to climb the ladder, the other monkeys, wanting to avoid the cold spray, pull him off the ladder and beat him.

Now one monkey is removed and a new monkey is introduced to the cage. Spotting the bananas, he naively begins to climb the ladder. The other monkeys pull him off and beat him.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The experimenter removes a second one of the original monkeys from the cage and replaces him with a new monkey. Again, the new monkey begins to climb the ladder and, again, the other monkeys pull him off and beat him – including the monkey who had never been sprayed.

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By the end of the experiment, none of the original monkeys were left and yet, despite none of them ever experiencing the cold, wet, spray, they had all learned never to try and go for the bananas.

This experiment, while done on monkeys is what happens in organizations all over the world! Ideas and thoughts are shot down without giving them the importance they deserve, sometime intentionally and sometimes unintentionally.

We are so acclimatized to working in a certain way that without realizing it, we dismiss new ideas. What I question is how are new ideas, and thoughts for improvement not important? There are only two possible outcomes of trying something new, one we don’t like it or it doesn’t work and we go back to how things were done before and the other, where it works and is beneficial.

So how is it that we can encourage fresh ideas and increase our chances of growth?

Companies that don’t encourage their employees to think and speak their minds inadvertently resign themselves to mediocrity.

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