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There was the famous experiment on monkeys. You get five of them into a cage with ladder, with banana on top of it. As soon as they enter the cage, monkeys immediately rush to get their beloved food. But reaching for ladder triggers cold shower.

Quickly, monkeys realize that this banana should be left alone.

Then you swap one monkey for a new one. As it, inevitably, rushes for a banana, it gets beating from the others. Few moments later, it knows that it’s not worth it.

Then you swap another one, with the same result. Then the next, and so on. Soon, all the monkeys are swapped and each of them knows that was taught a lesson.

Which is where we play evil scientist and add a new monkey in. Without a doubt, it tries to reach for banana, only to get its beating.

As all its predecessors, it has no idea why it got punished.
Other (swapped) monkeys have no idea why they punish the new one – none of them ever got wet.
Apparently, this is how things are in that specific cage.

The best part of the experiment?
IT WAS NEVER CONDUCTED.

We have no idea if monkeys would act this way.

The scariest part of the experiment? We know, well enough, that regardless of how monkeys would behave, we would act as the way they did. Just the social element of our human nature.

When put in a new environment, we don’t want to be the one to rock the boat. Reaching for banana is challenging the status quo – and nobody likes that. Unless we’re conscious and deliberate about it, we don’t really want to expand our comfort zones.

And without it, we’re becoming obsolete, as someone competing with us will expand theirs.

Remember that as you walk into your monkey cage this morning.

So you’re a Scrum Master, business owner, manager or any other kind of a leader – and you’d like your team to be able to conquer the world. Or just deliver products and services your clients will love. Welcome to the first of series of articles designed to make your journey easier. Today, we’ll tackle the robotic aspects of your team.

Are you into some team sports – football, basketball, volleyball, anything like that? Think of the best team you know, one that raises the bar beyond reach of all others. If you’re not into this kind of entertainment, simply ask around – then choose the most popular answer. That is, unless you surround yourself with local sports club hooligans – but then you wouldn’t be reading this article.

Got the team? Great. Now, spend few minutes or so, on watching them playing – YouTube or Vimeo should do just fine. Make notes about how they play.

Even if you’re not familiar with the particular sport, you should notice one thing. For perfect team, things just happen. Somehow, right players show up at right places to perform right actions. You cannot see any deliberate planning or synchronization. Both of which are often simply impossible, due to extreme dynamics of the situation. It’s almost like magic.

Then it’s everything but magic.

That’s the imprinted, repeated reaction to a specific cue. If teammate on position A does B, you do C. Specific situations are analysed, broken down, and rehearsed during training. Thousands of times. Then, the moment the trigger is activated, you start doing your part. And that’s without even thinking about it or realizing that!

It’s the same mechanism that decides the sequence of actions you perform every morning. One that allows you to commute mindlessly, the same way, every single day. One that decides how exactly you wash your teeth.

Automated response to imprinted scenario is what we call habit.

Competent sport coaches teach their teams the rules. Good ones teach tips and tricks. Great ones design and foster habits.

As each of us has thousands of them, from tiny ones to those defining our personality, so do teams and organizations. Generally, every concept composed of creatures of habit, has habits on its own.

Now, for a few weeks, observe the habits of your team. Spot triggers and reactions. When e-mail arrives in team mailbox, they do A. When new bug arrives on their task board, they do B. When they come to work, they do C (which clearly stands for Coffee, at least in IT).

Some of these habits are great. Some are close to meaningless. Some are devastating.

Spot them, share with the team, ask them to look around themselves!

Which puts you one step closer to growing the team to conquer the world.

As for next step – modifying habits – I’ll cover that next week. Stay tuned!

If you’re not some mindless instincts driven drone, you spend at least moments of your day thinking about the future. Your plans. Your doubts. Your hopes. Events you wish to unveil. People you want to meet. Relationships you dream of building. To see that, you use one of the most powerful tools at your disposal – your imagination. You can see yourself involved in the limitless spectrum of possible outcomes.

Thing is though, that person is not you. Read more

For whatever reasons, quite often wrong or misperceived, we all try to introduce some change. Be it about our own lives, our teams, or our whole organisations, we want to make things better. Rest assured, it is never easy. Change sucks, is painful, and sometimes requires unearthly amounts of willpower. And it’s when you only apply it to yourself! Thinking of your family, your team, or whatever bigger entity – you may as well start praying.

Because, at one moment or another, you will fail miserably. Read more

There is no single ingredient to anything. To be a good leader, you need humility, confidence, perspective – and many more. To be good at sports, you need training, proper nutrition, good rest – and many more. To build a successful business, you need resilience, a lot of hard work, a good team to compliment your weak spots – and many more. Every aspect of reality comprises of multitude of factors, many of which we may never truly realize. That’s just the way things are. There’s no silver bullet to help you achieve greatness in whatever you pursue.

Except there is one. Read more

There are several ways you could split your activities each day. Some are habitual, some are conscious. Some are good, some neutral, few somewhat bad and some purely evil. Some are personal, some are social. The selection can go on forever. The important one is that there are things you choose to do and those you must do. But do you really? Is there really anything you must do?

Well, no. Almost. Read more