What can corporate peeps learn from chimpanzees ?

Let me tell you a story

A scientist wanted to test how well Chimpanzees take care of each other and devised an experiment to test his hypothesis .

He put a little chimp and his mother into a huge tall glass jar . And then he started pouring water into it . As the water level rose to the little chimp’s nose , the mother picked it up and held it close to her chest . As water kept climbing up – she put the kid on her head . The scientist was fascinated , and decided to see what happens next . And throughout the process, the little chimp tries hard to escape from the top of the jar

As water level continued to rise – the mother stood on its tip toes . But as soon as it reached her nose – she dropped the chimp and stood on it to reach the top of the jar to escape .

End of story – and it is just a story , no actual animal was harmed in this fictional story .

In our professional life – at times we are the little chimp and at other times we are the mother chimp . The only thing that doesn’t change is the allegoric water level that keeps rising .

Will the mother chimp in us wait till the water is at nose level before we decide to put our life ahead of the little chimp under our care ? And when we are in the role of little chimp – are we always that helpless and do we need constant protection ? Clearly not a black and white problem

Sadly – there several managers will not wait till water reaches their nose level . At the first sign of trouble – some times even when there is no actual trouble – they will throw the people under them down and step on them . To those managers , all I can say is that they are not always playing the role of the chimp mother . There are times when they could end up as the little chimp and the tables will get turned against them too .

We can’t change how such managers work given the flow of decision making in most organizations . But we can choose whether to work for a manager who will give us as many opportunities as they possibly can till their own existence is endangered .

Not everyone has the option of finding a new manager when the existing one is clearly not the one you want to work for . This means we need to be patient and see if we can make it work over time . However , it will be pretty naive to not keep your skills up to date so that in worst case you can always find a manager in another team that you can trust . Skills alone will not find you the next job – you need to build a network too that you can tap into .

Hopefully you have that network already . The best time to start building that network was the day you got into kindergarten . The second best day is today . So please get started . Even if you never anticipate being in the little chimp situation – you will do the world a lot of good by being a good mother chimp to the unfortunate little chimps amongst us .

Always remember – even in the best case scenario, if water level reaches the nose level of the mother chimp – the little chimp has no chance from that point . So – wherever possible – work with the mother chimps to see if you can stop or slow down the water level from rising .


Published by Vijay Vijayasankar

Son/Husband/Dad/Dog Lover/Engineer. Follow me on twitter @vijayasankarv. These blogs are all my personal views - and not in way related to my employer or past employers

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