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There’s one question we’re often asked: what’s your name all about?
Google the 100th Monkey effect and you’ll find aplenty. But put simply, we like to think of it as how an idea, a narrative, or a message becomes accepted as a truth. It is a story about influence.
That’s the headline. Read on for the detail.
The hundredth monkey phenomenon dates back to a study in 1952 which followed the behaviour of a hungry young female monkey living in the wild on a Japanese island. One day, perhaps fed up with the residual taste of grit in her mouth after mealtimes, she had a bright idea; she washed her dirt-encrusted potatoes in a stream before eating them.
Her family watched on, curiously, then followed suit. Then her playmates. Then their families. One-by-one, this behavioural change spread within the troupe.
But it was what scientists reportedly observed next that was remarkable. When exactly the 100th monkey got involved (yes, I agree, it’s a suspiciously round number) the new idea transformed from being an exception to the norm. Overnight, every monkey and every troupe on the whole island began washing their potatoes before eating them.
Monkey no.100 is what is now described as the point at which ‘critical mass’ had been reached … the tipping point for all other monkeys to follow suit.
It’s an interesting tale, that caught our eye. Not because of an obsession with monkeys, or potatoes. But because critical mass theory can be considered in light of every social movement, big and small. Why and how was it that drink driving finally became socially unacceptable? What were the messages that changed public perception on smoking once and for all? When will – or has? – the climate crisis cut through to genuinely change behaviours? Is it simply a numbers game? Or is there more to it, deeper levels of communication and influence afoot?
It is only right to acknowledge that we also chose the name because it is ‘stand out’ and memorable, and to this day we continue to take the monkey monikers coined by our clients – e.g. “the monkey people”, “wise monkeys”, “monkey business” – with pride and good grace 🙂
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