What We Can Learn From Chimps

What We Can Learn From Chimps

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A while back I was reading a great post by SearchEngineMan on what we can learn from Chimpanzees.

This not only applies to internet tools, but in real life.

Below is the post in it’s unabridged form:

There are two kinds of chimpanzee’s: the ones that live in trees, and the ones that live on the ground.

When the chimpanzee’s in the trees look down, they see a bunch of smiling faces.

When the Chimpanzee’s on the ground look up, they see a bunch of ***holes.

There’s nothing worse when you are knee deep in your day to day tasks, when the HiPPO (Highest Individual Paid Per Organization(http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/2006/10/seven-steps-to-creating-a-data-driven-decision-making-culture.html) dumps the latest emergency task on your plate, the one you hate. Never mind that they knew about the deadline weeks ago.

Since you’re such a smart worker you’ve already made allowances for these kinds of interruptions and race to get the task done. Again.

Your reward? Overtime catching up on your regular work.

What is truly annoying is that you will find this same situation repeats itself, but you’re too busy on the next task. “We just need to implement X-Technology to fix the problem!” – Everyone nods, nothing happens. Sound familiar?

Why Technology and the Internet fails in the Workplace?

How many gadgets on your cell phone do you actually use?

Is texting really an efficient use of your time?

Has email made your life less complicated?

This might explain the subconscious hostility arround Wiki’s, Apps, Blackberry’s, Schedulers, Calendar Software or Productivity technology. We roll our eyes when yet another technology enters the workplace.

This hostility by culture and refusal by management to embrace new tools is so ancient that we bump into our friends the chimpanzees.

Chimpanzee’s, Termite Popsicles and Power Tools

Chimpanzee’s developed a really effective method for extracting termites from a nest.

They take a stick, and lick it.

They plunge the stick into the termite nest

The termites get stuck on the stick

Voila! Instant termite Popsicle. Snack Time! (http://www.lpzoo.org/info/media-center)

A study was done to try to change the chimpanzee behavior, using better tools. Imagine what could be done to productivity?

They gave the chimpanzees power drills.

They took the power drill, and licked it.

They plunged the drill into the termite nest

The termites get stuck on the drill bit.

Voila! Instant termite Popsicle. Snack Time! Again!

(OK- we DIDN’T do this… PETA would not be amused. It’s an analogy…go with it…)

The problem is never the tools. Its the energy and investment and cost required to adopt technology and methods. Most HiPPO’s are not even aware of these problems, because they get someone else to clean up the mess (Chimpanzee’s in the trees). Your problem (as a ground dweller) is that you are rewarding bad behavior. It’s easier for the HiPPO to reach for his tool to get the job done…You!

Stop being a Tool!

To stop being a tool you must find a suitable replacement for your HiPPO’s habits. Not all of us have the luxury of saying no. Changing bad behavior means identifying the root of the problem, by gently showing the consequences to the HiPPO’s bottom line in a currency the HiPPO respects (Money, Ego, and Power).

The solution must be actionable by you and Dodo(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodo) simple, technology is your last line of resort.

Managing Client & Customer Expectations and get to the finish line before the HiPPO does.

Get somebody else (with power) to present your solutions to the HiPPO

Pulling a Scotty (Star Trek) -It’ll take 3 weeks (then do it in 1 week)

Swamp your HiPPO with details (They tune out and run away)

Show how the hated competition uses X method, so we should too. (EGO)

Be nice to your HiPPO, fix one of their problems in advance.

Make the HiPPO think it was their idea in the first place.

Say No (nicely)

The bottom line is you are not going to change the behavior with technology. It won’t work with Chimpanzee’s and it won’t work with your HiPPO. He still uses his uber-powerful computer like a type writer / TV crossover…

I’m curious if any of you have managed to get your chimpanzee to use any power tools.

Do you have any HiPPO stories? Feel free to share.