Quote: Monkey First

Big Think’s description of this video is “Astro Teller, the CEO aka ‘Captain of Moonshots’ of innovation factory X (formerly Google X) illuminates a critical difference: when undertaking a project, do you want to feel you’ve accomplished something, or do you want to accomplish it?”. That does sum up what he’s talking about on the importance of making it OK for people to fail and to go on to other things rather than feeling compelled to push on with a project they don’t think is going anywhere.

Although I think it’s worth watching as a whole, the phrase that really jumped out at me was “Monkey First.”

There are many times that “once you get it done it will look like you’ve made progress, but you haven’t, you’ve made motion…..Our shorthand for this at X is we joke #MonkeyFirst….If you’re trying to get a monkey to stand on a pedestal ten feet high and recite Shakespeare monologues and you have a choice between training the monkey first and building the pedestal, if you build the pedestal first when your boss walks by he’s like, “Hey nice pedestal!” And then you feel good. You just did something useful, you just got a little bit of attaboy. That’s why people do that. But you’ve utterly wasted your company’s money [and your time] if you build the pedestal first because all of the hard part is getting the monkey to recite Shakespeare. If you can get the monkey to recite Shakespeare, we can always build the pedestal afterwards. But if you can’t, thank goodness we didn’t spend a moment or a penny building what turned out to be a useless pedestal.”

Teller then talks about how they try to fight that instinct at Innovation Factory X, but I think it’s the idea that important no matter what you are doing. Are you building the pedestal because it’s easy and people will say nice pedestal or are you doing something real and important and figuring out how to train the monkey.

In the quote above a cut a few sentences and phrases to keep it a reasonable length, but the full text is within the video. It has corrected closed captioning if you want all the words.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on  FacebookTwitterGoogle+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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