By ProServeIT on April 03, 2023

The Five Monkeys Experiment & Its Lessons for Your Organization

As executives and C-level officers of successful companies, we are all trained to think logically, make well-considered decisions, and take measured steps toward the success of our organizations. Yet despite our best efforts, sometimes it can seem like we’re looking at problems through a fogged mirror—until now!  

Many forward-thinking organizations have used the Five Monkeys Experiment as an eye-opener when examining organizational structures and taking that extra step towards increased business efficiency. At ProServeIT, we believe in the power of innovation and creativity. That's why we encourage our employees to think outside the box and come up with new and innovative solutions to help our clients achieve their goals. Through this experiment, let's discover what happens when you stop expecting routine obedience from employees but instead allow their ideas and creativity to thrive. 

In a hurry? Jump straight to your section of interest. 

🐒 What is the Five Monkeys Experiment? 
💡 What can the Five Monkeys Experiment Teach Us? 
😯 2 Questions to Help Avoid Five Monkeys Experiment “Syndrome”
🏁 Conclusion

What is the Five Monkeys Experiment?

If you haven’t heard about the Five Monkeys Experiment, it goes a little something like this: 

A researcher puts five monkeys in a cage. There’s a bunch of bananas hanging from a string, with a ladder leading to the bananas. When the first monkey goes for the bananas, the researcher sprays all five monkeys with freezing water for five minutes. Sometime later, when a second monkey inevitably tries to go for the bananas, the researcher once again sprays all five monkeys with the cold water for five minutes. The researcher then puts the hose away and never touches it again. But, when a third monkey tries to go for the bananas, the other four attack him to prevent him from climbing that ladder. They are afraid of the punishment that may come. 

Then, the researcher replaced one of the monkeys with a new monkey who wasn’t part of the original experiment and was never sprayed with water. And as soon as he touches the ladder to go for the bananas, the other four monkeys attack him to keep him from doing so.  If he tries again, they attack him again. Thus, the new monkey learns not to go after the bananas because he’ll get attacked if he does. 

The researcher replaces a second monkey with another new monkey. When this monkey goes for the bananas, the other four attack him, including the new monkey never sprayed with water. The researcher then continues to replace all the monkeys one at a time until all five original monkeys are removed from the cage. Each time the newcomer goes for the bananas, the others attack, even when they, as new monkeys, have never received punishment for going after the bananas. And thus, the new monkeys, who have never been sprayed with cold water, learn not to go after the temptation of the bananas. 

The researchers hypothesize that if they ask the monkeys why they don’t go for the bananas, they’d answer, “because that’s the way it’s always been done.” That’s what we call the Five Monkey Experiment “Syndrome.”  

What can the Five Monkeys Experiment Teach Us?

There’s controversy over whether the Five Monkeys experiment even happened. Still, as business owners and CEOs, there’s a lot to learn from this, even if it’s only viewed as an analogy. The five monkeys experiment says a lot about the pervasiveness of traditions within an organization. 

Traditions are a part of every organization, especially if the majority of the workforce has been around for some time. Those traditions can be detrimental to progress within your workplace, especially when new employees are stopped from pursuing new ideas. By focusing on doing something the way it’s always been done because it’s tradition to do it that way, organizations are often rendered blind to new ways that they can get the “banana” (the prize they’re going after). 

Quality technology strategies and digital transformation can help organizations place themselves on the path to future success. Similar to the Five Monkeys experiment, even when no restraints are applied, organizations still succumb to peer pressure or the status quo and refrain from thinking strategically about their technology. Complacency has hindered many companies from unlocking their digital future. The shock is often revealed during challenging economic times or the appearance of an industry disruptor that critically impacts an organization’s revenue stream.  

There are clear steps that you can take to ensure strategic thinking for your technology is part of your business success story and not your biggest downfall. By leveraging technology change as an accelerator of growth rather than a cost-cutting measure, you can create something truly transformative.  

Decide to invest time into digital transformation and technology strategy-building actively – find out what you need now and develop a roadmap for the future of your organization’s technology investments and design proactive initiatives based on your organization’s strategic objectives. 


The Five Monkeys experiment, therefore, teaches us that we need to be constantly challenging ourselves to look at things from a new light (technology or otherwise), to question things that don’t always feel right, and to avoid using the excuse of “we’ve always done it this way” to avoid trying new things and branching out in new directions. In other words, if we want that “banana,” there are times that we’re going to need to get creative or let those new employees try new things. 

So, how can you make sure that you’re building a culture that doesn’t douse creativity, ingenuity, or innovation and instead encourages experimental problem-solving? In the next section, we’ll look at two critical questions you should consider asking yourself about your work environment. 

2 Questions to Consider To Avoid Five Monkeys Experiment “Syndrome.”

There’s no denying the fact that digital and Cloud transformation is constantly and rapidly changing the way that employees communicate and work with each other. This means that an attitude of “we’ve always done it this way” will no longer be a viable way to run your organization. 

Here are two important questions you need to consider that will help you to avoid the Five Monkeys experiment “syndrome” in your organization: 

1. Does your organization’s culture encourage open dialogue and collaboration?

Giving your employees the chance to engage in open dialogue and collaborate with one another on various projects and initiatives is, in this day and age, necessary to maintain their interest in working for you. Today’s workforce is all about collaboration – when you look at the available technology, it’s clear that collaboration is not only encouraged, but employees are demanding it!

By using Cloud-based programs like Office 365,  Microsoft Teams, Workplace from Meta, Slack, and others, you can show your employees that you value their input and you’re open to exploring options that may challenge the status quo – the complete opposite of the results from the Five Monkeys experiment. 

The truth is that your employees are always looking for a better employee experience to help them genuinely feel engaged by their work, connected to the values of their company, and for their voices/thoughts/ideas to be acknowledged by upper management.  

Did you know that highly engaged employees are 12x less likely to leave their company than those not engaged? Creating a better work culture where employees (remote or in-person) can collaborate and voice their concerns should be more than just a “retention” strategy.

This should be woven into building a rich employee experience that provides employees with the healthy environment needed to give their best (or far more than that) to help an organization that invests in them.  

Reimagine your digital employee experience with the help of Microsoft Viva. This cutting-edge employee experience platform brings together communications, knowledge, and learning resources and then integrates them into a smooth flow of workflow for all employees.  

Want to “dip your toes” into the Viva experience? Check out one of our Microsoft Viva classes today!  

proserveit-academy-viva-bannerRelated: Office 365 Apps & Services: What They Are & When to Use Them

2. Does your organization reward and recognize innovative thinkers?

How do you recognize those employees who go above and beyond to develop innovative solutions? Do you recognize employees that take risks and try new and innovative ideas? To avoid the five monkeys syndrome in your organization, it’s essential to encourage your employees to seek out those new ways to get the “banana” and recognize the employees who do so, even if their ideas fail spectacularly.  

In this case, failure should not be condemned because it can be a great learning experience for the employee, the team, and the organization as a whole.

Is Your Organization Stuck in a Five Monkeys Experiment Pattern?

The lessons that we can get from the five monkeys experiment are clear – we need to stop dousing our creativity with cold water, allow all of our employees the chance to take risks (and to fail, if it comes to that), and really foster and promote a culture of innovation within our workplace.  

Easier said than done? The good news is that the right technology framework can help you with this! Why not talk to our experts to see how implementing the right technology can be a good first step in your journey? Let us help you get started in enhancing your corporate culture today! 

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Published by ProServeIT April 3, 2023