THE 100TH MONKEY EFFECT


What’s in a name?

Here’s a question we’re often asked: what’s the name all about?

Google the 100th Monkey effect and you’ll find aplenty.

But put simply, we like to think of it as a story about influence; how an idea, a narrative, or a message becomes accepted as a truth.

That’s the topline. Read on for the detail.

The hundredth monkey phenomenon is a sociological theory which dates back to a study in 1952 that followed the behaviour of a hungry young female monkey living in the wild on a Japanese island.

One day, perhaps tired of the taste of grit in her mouth after mealtimes, she had a bright idea; she washed the muddied potatoes she snaffled from the ground in a stream before eating them. Her family watched on, curiously, then followed her lead. So did her playmates. Then their families. 

But it was what scientists reportedly observed next that was remarkable. This new behaviour went from being an exception to the norm when the researchers noted the 100th monkey in the troupe had copied the behaviour. Suddenly, overnight, every monkey on the island took it as the norm. Critical mass, or the tipping point, had been reached.

OK, so the round figure of 100 is strangely convenient. But the principle is clear, and not just in terms of a numbers game. Why and how was it that drink driving finally became socially unacceptable? What were the messages that changed the public perception of smoking once and for all?

From a communications perspective, we can interpret this theory as being about how, as a leader and as an organisation, you take people with you, your messages and actions are heard, understood, and reciprocated. A key part of achieving a critical mass is how you communicate – both what you say, and how you say it.

That’s what our coaches, trainers and facilitators give a monkeys about. And that’s how we support some of the leading figures and organisations in British public life.

Get in touch to see if we can help you.