Monday, September 21, 2009

If the apple falls from the tree and nobody asks "why?"... where does the difference in approach come from?

Take a four years old to a playground, and watch and observe...

... hold that thought for a second...

If you are in the back of your house in the garden, in the small apples orchard, just relaxing with a good book, in September...

Apples fall from the tree.... what are you thinking?

* ah, I have to clean these darn apples again
* it's too late now to sell/eat these since they already began to rot. Next time I'll be more attentive and organized with my time
* what have my workers been doing? I told them countless times to collect all the apples
* I need to collect all these, and we'll make a good apple cider, or maybe even some apple-plum brandy

There are many things common to all these reactions.

Are you thinking "why?"?

Today, we do not have to, since we know the answer.

But at some point in humankind's development, someone was sitting watching apples fall and simply asked "why do they fall?"

His name was Isaac Newton and today we learn the results of the end of the story in elementary school.

...back to observing the four years old on the playground...

What are we observing? What are we noticing? Do we ask "why?"? Does the four years old ask "why?"? Then, on the playground, or at any other time? You bet.

... hold that thought for a second... "child-playground-observing..."

Ever happened to you that someone told you "we can't do that!"? At work, in life in general, at a customer service counter of a business or government agency?

Were you ever tempted to ask "why not?"? But most probably you simply stopped for the fear of not looking silly, unprofessional, challenging your boss, risking your position, or simply sounding like starting up a scandal.

... hold this new thought for a second... "not asking questions out of fear"

Let us look at this classic anecdote, with the researcher and his experiment with the monkeys... explaining what "corporate know-how" could mean...

A researcher has four monkeys in a cage. Drops four bananas from the cage's ceiling, monkeys jump to get bananas, and researcher then sprays icy cold water on all of them. He repeats several times, until the monkeys are conditioned to stop jumping at the bananas, predicting the icy cold water spray outcome if they jump (this is just a mental experiment, no animals are mistreated during its conduct).

Next, the researcher replaces one monkey with a new monkey. The new monkey will jump at the sight of the bananas, as it is not yet conditioned not to do so. The other three will pull it down, knowing already the icy cold outcome on the entire group if the new monkey reaches the banana(s). This would condition the new monkey too, even though an icy cold shower may not be applied at all.

As the researcher replaces one by one all old monkeys with new monkeys, he ends up with four new monkeys in the cage. As he drops the bananas, no (all new) monkey would jump to get them.

The question is "why the _new_ monkeys do not jump?" The common answer is "because we have always done it that way!" while no monkey actually knows why that is... nor do they have any knowledge of a time when (or hope for a possibility that) things could be done in a different way...

We call that above jokingly "corporate culture".

... back to our two thoughts stored... "child-playground-observation", and "not asking out of fear"...

Again, if the apple falls from the tree and nobody is there to ask "why?", what happens? It seems like an opportunity lost, doesn't it?

It may seem that if you repeat the 'taking child to playground and observe' experiment with a ten years old, the number of "why?"-s drops significantly... Are we watching this here? _Why?_ Indeed, why is the number of "why?"-s dropping?

What is different between the four years old and the ten years old?

If we acknowledge and then understand that difference, can we respond to it? How would we?

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