Going Ape in NM

Thanks to Dick Rowland’s staff at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, here is a nice behavioral analogy apropos to NM (perhaps you have seen it before):
The difference between a bureaucrat and a public servant is the degree to which an individual is empowered to take action for positive change in a system and the extent to which they exercise that power to benefit the common good.
Essentially, bureaucrats can be the source of the problem or victims of the system based on their actions or inactions. I think it is safe to say that bureaucrats ARE a large part of the problem in government. Most of you know that I like to tell a good story to illustrate my point….
Start with a cage containing five apes. In the cage, hang a banana on a string and put stairs under it. Before long, an ape goes to the stairs towards the banana, but as soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the apes with cold water.
After a while, another ape makes an attempt with the same result – all the apes are sprayed with cold water. Turn off the cold water. If, later, another ape tries to climb the stairs, the other apes will try to prevent it even though no water sprays them.
Now, remove one ape from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new ape sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his horror, all of the other apes attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.
Next, remove another of the original five apes and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.
Again, replace a third original ape with a new one. The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked as well. Two of the four apes that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest ape.
After replacing the fourth and fifth original apes, all of the apes, which have been sprayed with cold water, have been replaced. Nevertheless, no ape ever again approaches the stairs.
Why not?
“Because that’s the way it’s always been around here.”
Sound familiar?
We should immediately ban the use of the phrase “We’ve always done it like that” by any public employee. They should be allowed and even encouraged to apply common sense in the workplace. We should pay people who work for government based on the service they provide versus the amount of paper they push. Maybe then we will create true public servants in government rather than bureaucrats.

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One Reply to “Going Ape in NM”

  1. Good piece. In a similaar vein, during my days as a manager in the federal government, I sometimes found my implicit mission to be “make things better but don’t change anything.”

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