The Monkey Experiment and Edgar Schein

April 2, 2014.  A reader brought to my attention that the research cited in this post is suspect.  After a little digging, it appears that the story originated in a credible business book, “Competing for the Future” by Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad.  One writer went so far as to contact Hamel’s office to obtain the actual research cited in the book, and apparently received a brush off.  So while this makes a good story to support theories on organizational culture, perhaps it should merely be taken as that – a good story.  But…I have seen the behavior in 30-some years of corporate work and the message is sound.

One of many “funny” emails floating around the internet contained the story of the monkey, banana and water spray experiment.  I was pretty sure it was true (because I’ve seen it happen – but not with monkeys), but I wanted to source it anyway.

So I went to to check it out (see the story below).  Indeed, the experiment took place in 1967 and has been a standard in psychology to explain “mob behavior“.

But let’s take it to the topic of organizational culture. Edgar Schein talks about the “unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs, perceptions, thoughts and feelings.  (more…)