The herd mentality is the idea that people feel as though there is only one way to do things and “follow the herd.” Some won’t even realize why they do things in a specific order. When learning something new in your business don’t be afraid to ask questions about why things are done a certain way. The information you gather can help you with big decisions and new opportunities.
The ham in the pan
My mom makes the most delicious roast ham with maple glaze, asparagus, and potatoes. So I naturally begged her to teach me her secret for creating her mouth-watering meal. She immediately dragged me to the grocery store and made it happen. We concocted the glaze and prepped the herbs and vegetables. She then directed me to cut off one end of the ham, and place it in the roasting pan. I asked what the purpose of this was, and her response was, “It’s how it’s always been done.” Now my mission was not about perfecting her recipe, but about figuring out why we had to cut the end of the ham off and throw it out. I mean there had to be a logical reason.
So later that night, I called my aunt to rack her brain about how she cooks a ham. Funny enough, her answer to my perplexing question was identical to my mother’s. Both of them had absolutely no idea why they cut the end of the ham off. They never thought to question it.
I was stumped
I spoke with my grandmother who sent me to my grandfather because it was his family recipe that brought me to this place of wonder. Through his raspy voice, he explained that his mom would cut the end off of the dinner ham because her roasting pan was just too small. So I realize that my family cuts off a perfectly succulent piece of meat and disposes of it every time because that’s how it’s always has been done. It was so easy for them to follow the herd without any particular reason.
This story reminds me of the experiment with five monkeys and a banana. It has been suggested that it is based on a study called “Cultural acquisition of a specific learned response among rhesus monkeys” by Stephenson et al.
Five monkeys follow the herd
Five monkeys were placed in a room. At the center a banana perched on top of a ladder to entice the monkeys to climb up to reach it. When they tried, the scientists would drench them all with ice cold water until they would retreat to a dry corner. This was repeated until the monkeys made no effort at all to get to the banana. The spraying then ceased, and no more monkeys were harmed in the making of this experiment.
Monkey see monkey do
One wet, cold monkey was then traded for a dry, unsuspecting one. He, of course, did not know the drill and immediately went for the fruit. Like clockwork, the uncomfortably drenched monkeys attacked him and pulled him down. The scientists continued to replace monkeys and each time a brawl ensued when the newcomer went to retrieve the banana. The five naive monkeys that remained were never sprayed, however, they all still chose to attack if one of the others reached for the snack. The wild thing is that even though they were never sprayed, they all continued to exhibit the behavior because they decided to follow the herd, without ever knowing why.
Take the road less traveled
It’s extremely important to ask questions and resist the norm. Newfound ideas and information could make sense for your business and help it flourish. Just remember that sometimes there is absolutely no logical reason for doing things a certain way. Take those opportunities to point your arrow in another direction.
If you enjoyed this article check out our 3 wise monkeys: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil blogpost.