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Rhesus Macaque Macaca mulatta in Kinnerasani W...

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There’s a story about an experiment that took place with five rhesus monkeys that were placed in a cage together.

There was a ladder in the middle of the cage and a bunch of bananas was placed at the top of the ladder.

One of the monkeys saw the bananas and went to climb the ladder.  As soon as it did, ice-cold water was sprayed over all of the monkeys.

This pattern would repeat itself.  Every time a monkey would start to climb the ladder, ice-cold water would be sprayed.

It got the point where whenever one of the monkeys would try to climb the ladder, the rest of the monkeys would start to beat him up.

At this point, the researchers took one monkey out and replaced it with another one.

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If you’re a leader, there’s a reason why you’re a leader.

You are meant to lead, to make decisions, to cast vision, to take responsibility.

There’s a dilemma that I see many leaders caught up in.

We are told to listen, to be collaborative and to get others involved in the decision-making process.

Sounds good and I agree.  But there’s a limit.

Don’t let the tail wag the dog!

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One of the challenges in leadership or even when trying to set goals for your own life is setting achievable, yet demanding targets.

Set the bar too low and you’ll do it in a canter, but set it too high and you may subconsciously give up because you know (or think you know) that it can’t be done.

A couple of weeks ago, I had an epiphany regarding this challenge.  There’s no such thing as incremental improvement!

In other words, if you are looking for a piddly 2-3% gain from year to year you are not genuinely getting better and not achieving all that you can.

Let me explain why:

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Walt Disney once said,

You can dream, create, design and build the best, the most wonderful place on earth, but it requires people to make that dream a reality.

The Disney brand is very distinctive and is recognised globally.  Disney World in Orlando, Florida is the largest single-site employer in the United States with 55,000 employees.  They understand the impact that each and every staff member has on their brand and act accordingly, giving us a lot of insights into how we too can more effectively use our workforce. 

What can we learn from the Disney culture?

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I came across a study recently that teaches us a few things about human behaviour and how leaders can increase staff effectiveness.

In the late 1970’s, the University of Illinois conducted a series of experiments to see what would get children to eat vegetables that they didn’t like.

They tried a few strategies:

  • they told the children to eat their vegetables.
  • they offered a reward of ice-cream to those who did.
  • they explained why eating vegetables is good for them.
  • they ate the vegetables themselves to act as good role-models.
  • they put the children who didn’t like their vegetables on a table with children who did.

Which strategy was consistently the most successful?

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