Elephants Never Forget…
By Dan Warren
It is said that if you walk behind a Circus tent to where elephants are stationed prior to going “Center Ring” — you will find these gigantic creatures held in place by a rope tied to a stake that any average size man could dislodged with a little oomph!
When I was told this — my first inclination was to dismiss such a ridicules notion as poppycock. Then — I was reminded of the childhood expression “Elephants Never Forget”.
As it turns out — during the earliest stages of a baby elephant’s development they are fastened to the ground by a rope and stake. Since being tethered is not in an elephant’s nature — they continuously attempt to free themselves. It is estimated that during their first 3 years they will attempt to yank the stake loose over 10,000 times.
Eventually — the adolescent elephant determines his escape attempts to be futile and resides himself to captivity.
Ironically — as time carries on and weeks turn into months and months turn into years — the elephant is not cognizant of the fact that they have grown exponentially both in size and strength, and what once was an impossible feat — could now be accomplished with little, if any effort.
However, since an elephant’s memory is impeccable — they remember that trying to escape is a waste of time and therefore don’t even try.
In a strange way, this “failure to forget” can also be a negative characteristic of people. Sometimes employees can be negatively conditioned that an organization will never change. This conditioning can come about by an employee running into a budgetary or managerial “brick wall” one to many times and finally just throwing their hands in the air and giving up.
As the young elephant doesn’t realize the evolution of their size and strength and how these changes create an entirely different playing field — people sometimes don’t realize either personal or organizational evolutions that could possibly help them remove or overcome obstacles that have prevented them from achieving their goals in the past.
Personal evolutions like professional development, team relationship development and education — Organizational evolutions like economic conditions, industry innovations, staffing promotions / turnover, and increased revenues could all play a pivotal role in improving company culture.
By accepting attitudes of “defeatism” — people not only stifle their own growth, but also the growth of the entire company including their peers.
In contrast — I can’t help but smile when I think of another childhood motif about the Ant and His High Hopes.
Oops there goes another rubber tree Plant…