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Beware the Status Quo

Originally published: 02.01.15 by Pete Grasso

If you desire improvement, you have to change the way things have always been done.

As an editor, I'm inquisitive by nature. I ask a lot of questions because it's my job to ask questions and because I like to know the "why" behind everything. It's important to know the "why."

Throughout the years, I've been in many situations where I've asked "why" and was unable to get an answer. This can be frustrating, and I'm sure you've experienced this before as well.

In fact, there is a tale of a famous social experiment — whether true or not — that goes like this:

A group of scientists placed five monkeys in a cage. In the middle of the cage stood a tall ladder and, perched atop that ladder was a bunch of bananas.

The monkeys, as expected, wanted those bananas. Every time one of them climbed the ladder, however, the scientists soaked the rest of the monkeys with cold water.

After a while, every time a monkey would start up the ladder, the others would pull it down and beat it up. It didn't take long before none of the monkeys would dare try climbing the ladder, no matter how badly they wanted those bananas.

The scientists then replaced one of the monkeys. The first thing the new monkey did was start to climb the ladder. Immediately, the others pulled him down and beat him up.

After several beatings, the new monkey learned never to go up the ladder, even though there was no evident reason not to — aside from the beatings.

A second monkey was substituted and the same series of events occurred — and the first monkey participated in the beating of the second monkey. A third monkey was substituted in and the same was repeated. Then a fourth monkey was changed with the same results again.

Finally, the fifth monkey was replaced as well. What remained in the cage was a group of five monkeys that — without ever having received a cold shower — continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder.

Here's the lesson: If it was possible to ask the monkeys why they beat up on those who attempted to climb the ladder, the most likely answer would be "I don't know. It's just how things are done around here."

Sound familiar? How many times have you become complacent or settled into a routine simply because it's the way things have always been done?

I know many successful people and one thing they've all got in common is their willingness to embrace change. You can't expect to improve without change. Change is a good thing.

Of course, if you're happy with the way your business is going, that's great. Don't change a thing. Continue to do things the way they've always been done.

Maybe it's the pessimist in me, but I believe there is always room for improvement. Nothing is ever as good as it's ever going to be. In life, in business — I always strive to improve. And if something isn't working, then I change the way I'm doing things.

Sometimes, the most important person you should ask the "why" of is yourself.

It's been said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I'd modify that and say insanity is the desire to improve but refusing to change the way things have always been done.


About Pete Grasso

Pete is the former editor of HVACR Business magazine. He has spent his career working in and with trade media, both as a public relations practitioner and as an editor. He gained a great deal of expertise in the B2B arena, within large and medium sized advertising agencies. Be sure to follow Pete on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn!


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