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Business Principles

Published February 24, 2017
Countries: USA
Age Levels: 12 and up

This story demonstrates several principles. 1) Failure to listen can create problems in life and failure in business. 2) Overconfidence can create circumstances that allow problems and circumstances that can cause individuals and business people to have problems. 3) It is important to choose the right friends in life and business.

Story: The King and the Foolish Monkey A long time ago a king lived in a palace near a jungle.  From the palace, he could hear the chattering of the monkeys.  Looking at the monkeys made him happy.  One day he ordered his hunters to use nets to capture one of the monkeys and bring it back to the palace.  He decided to keep the monkey as a pet.

The king's advisors warned him that keeping the monkey in the palace was not a good idea.  "Monkeys are wild animals and can be dangerous," the advisors told him.  But, the king was in charge.  He gave the orders.  He did not have to take the advice of anyone.  He was the king. He knew better than his advisors.

"This is my Royal Monkey." he told the palace staff.  "It may go wherever it wants in the palace and may do what it wishes.  But, the monkey was not trained.  It did many foolish things in the palace.  It made many messes.  But no one stopped it.  They did not want to go against the wishes of the king.  The monkey went everywhere it wanted, including the king's bedroom.

One day, the king decided to take a nap while his monkey kept watch.  As the king slept, a fly came in the room and sat on the king's chest.  The monkey swatted at the fly.  It flew out of the monkey's reach but soon returned.  The monkey swatted at it again.  The fly moved out of the monkey's reach only to come back again seconds later.  It landed this time on the king's head. The monkey became very excited.  It looked for something to use to hit the fly and saw the king's scepter.  The scepter was a metal wand made of gold and covered with jewels.  The king carried it as sign to everyone that he was powerful and in charge of everything.  But, this time the monkey took charge.

The monkey picked up the scepter.  He began chasing the fly with the gold scepter, swinging it time after time at the fly.  When the fly landed on the king's head, the monkey swung the scepter at the fly.  The fly moved.  The hard gold scepter missed the fly, but it did not miss king.  The monkey hit the king right in the head.

His servants found the king later.  His head was bleeding, and the king had a huge bump on his head.  Now the king used his head for something besides as a target.  He sent the monkey back to the jungle to live.  The hit on the head by the monkey left a giant bump on the top of the king's head that never went away.  He had to have his crown made larger to fit him better.  The king also decided to begin to listen to advise given to him by others.  Maybe, he was not right all of the time.

The king's advisor did not say, "I told you so," to the king.  That would not have been polite.  But he did say, "Beware of foolish friends. They can cause you more harm than your enemies." 

Discussion: The above story came from the Panchatantra, a series of stories written in India to teach wisdom to the sons of a wealthy king. In the original story, the king is killed by the foolish monkey. I have a personal belief that there is too much violence in the world. Therefore, my adaptation allows the king to live and learn from his experiences.

In the story, the king shows several faults. First, he brings am untrained monkey into his home. This is the equivalent of a business person giving a foolish person open access to his business. The king’s advisors warn him that harm can come from his association with his pet. But, the king is overconfident. He believes he knows best and elects not to listen to sage advice, a problem for many individuals.

It was said by John Kotter, a professor emeritus from Harvard Business School that similar faults caused Kodak to file for bankruptcy in 2012. Kodak had once been a giant in the business world. But it relies on past successes led the leadership in the company to act like kings who did not have to listen to others. Employees talked to the officers in Kodak warning them that they needed to do research in new products. Kotter suggested that the company became complacent. In other words they let the monkey stay in the room. As a result, Kodak (the king) died, as in the original tale from the Panchatantra.

Make decisions wisely. Listen to advice given by colleagues and employees. Ponder that advice. Then use your own experiences, research, knowledge and common sense to consider the advice before acting on it. Be confident, but not overconfident. Finally, select wise and reliable people to be your friends and employees. Don’t let the foolish monkey into your life.