Company of the Apes

There is a thought experiment that postulates that, given enough time, a million monkeys at a million typewriters will eventually recreate the complete works of Shakespeare. In other words, given enough time, anything can be accomplished even in a random manner. Statistically this is true: as time approaches infinity, the probability of monkeys typing out Richard III approaches certainty.

I’d argue this probability approaches certainty much more quickly depending on the experiment run.

Let us consider a corporation helmed by monkeys. That is, take an ordinary publicly traded company and replace all management, from the CEO down to direct managers of direct labor, with chimps. In many companies there wouldn’t be much difference. In fact, I’d argue the company would run just as efficiently as if were it run by humans, and stockholders would never notice the difference.

Managers are prone to making irrational decisions, usually because they are trying to impress or gain the good standing of their superiors or appease the whims of stockholders. Monkeys can make the same ridiculous choices, but are easier to tolerate because chimp decisions are expected to be irrational, and doggone it, chimps are a whole lot cuter. Who could blame J. Fred Muggs for deciding to steer the company from next generation cellular technology to Morse code? He’s so damned interesting to look at, we could watch him drive a company into bankruptcy with a smile on our faces.

Not to mention J. Fred Muggs has as much name recognition as risk-taker CEO’s like Elon Musk and Richard Branson. Only time will reveal if Mr. Muggs is a brilliant visionary or a dumb monkey.

Most of the project managers I’ve worked with have great difficulty communicating their direction to project workers. What else would explain why most projects go over budget, over schedule, and stray from the original design intent? Koko the gorilla has learned enough sign language to communicate as effectively as the average project manager. Plus her sheer brute force and imposing stature would be more effective at keeping projects within specified schedule and budget limits.

The chimp Lance Link dresses as smartly and acts as suavely as any company sales manager, and he carries himself with as much dignity. More importantly, he has one distinct advantage: he is memorable, with unique appeal. Customers who feel hustled by typical sales managers, or who feel like they just sold their souls to the devil, would instead be amused by an order taking simian, particularly if Lance is wearing a cute little red bow tie. Sales meetings would feel less like a smoldering hell and more like an entertaining circus.

And how are tree monkeys swinging around flinging poo at the animals below them any different than the lower fifty percent of department or group managers?

In fact, if all these chimps were kept in cages, isolated to the top floor of the building, there would be fewer pointless meetings, and less daily worker interruptions by humans who are hired for the sole purpose of scheduling meetings and providing daily interruptions. Every work day would be like the couple times a year when the bosses congregate for the big corporate meeting or the managers’ golf outing. Every work day would be more productive. Morale would be higher. The only thing reminding workers that monkeys are at the helm would be the daily appearance of the primates’ caretaker. Dress that person like a secretary, and the workers wouldn’t know at all.

But, you might think, with monkeys making the decisions, stockholders will know, because the company will fail. Most companies do anyway, a majority of them within the first five years of business. Those that do not fare as well as a company following random decision making. Given the visibility most stockholders have into a company, they would never see the difference.

Now I’m there a higher probability my hamburger order would be correct if monkeys were running the fast-food restaurant?