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How do you get a monkey to ride a skateboard?

By February 23, 2012August 1st, 2018No Comments

“A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.” As cliche’s go, thatts pretty wise.

But you know what else starts with a single step? An ill conceived amble that you abandon after a few minutes.

In order to keep the steps coming, you’ve got to celebrate the first steps of success. Thus, the skateboarding monkey.

What do you do in the first day to teach a monkey to skateboard? The answer does not involve punishment.  See if that works with an elephant and you’re likely to be a splinter after short order. Instead, we use “approximations,” to reward the tiny steps.

For example, in the first hour of the first day of training, the future skateboarding monkey gets a chunk of mango for not freaking out  when the trainer puts the board in his cage. Later he gets mango for touching the board, then for sitting on it, then for letting the trainer push him back and forth on it. Mango, mango, mango. Hundreds of sessions later, you’ve got a mango-bloated monkey ready to skate a half-pipe!

Now there might not be a mango or a monkey, but lets remember – change is a process. The monkey doesn’t instantaneously skateboard, there’s a process. Same goes for that new employee at work and the community transition to more recycling.

A long journey requires a lot of mango!

Tim Walther

A modified excerpt from Switch: How to change when change is hard.





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