I am not always entranced by new ways of doing things, or new technology. I am resistant to the lure of novelty. I am often fatalistic about people’ slow adoption to change. But sometimes, it is obvious that a different way of doing things is simply better.
Why does it not always take root? Test case (sorry to those who have heard it before): Peeling a Banana.
When I was young, I was taught how to peel a banana. It consisted of grabbing the stalk, and tugging at it until the skin split away. It was sometimes a bit tricky, and occasionally squashed a very small section of the banana. But it was all I knew. I was happy.
One day, someone showed me how monkeys open bananas. (I think it was Ben James at BBJ, himself a fairly simian character). Being generally respectful of the survival skills of the animal kingdom, and particularly enthusiastic about monkeys, I was intrigued.
A monkey opens the banana at the other end, making a tiny incision in the tip and then splitting the skin open. It is much much easier. It is less likely to bruise the banana. And the stalk acts as a neat holder, allowing you to easily eat all the way to the end of the flesh.
It is, in summary, simply and obviously a better way of eating a banana.
By the law of averages, I am pretty certain you don’t peel YOUR bananas this way. Even after this post, you will probably continue peeling your banana sub-optimally. Why? (This is not a rhetorical question. I really don’t understand.)
I know, from a third of a lifetime pursuing the noble goals of helping people to get more out of their relationship with bananas, that I am not alone. Several people have responded positively to my peeling demonstrations. And I am not alone in fighting the good fight.
I found this explanation clear and helpful. 2.3m people have watched it. Hopefully some of them were converted. But not all of them. Why? When something is so obviously helpful, even on a topic of so little real pain, why does it not always take root.
My explanation, such as it is, lies in people’s fear of looking foolish. Eating a banana is already fraught with the opportunity for social embarrassment, whether in its somewhat sexual connotations, or in its ability to undermine credibility and authority as a stroke. Arguably this intangible banana-shame has already deprived one politician of the leadership of his country…
All of the people who I have managed to persuade are the kind of people who like monkeys. Who don’t baulk at thinking of human beings as crazy monkeys, rather than divine imitations. But obviously this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Is it fear of being like the monkeys that is holding back banana-peeling innovation? Is it, in fact, our entrancement with our own evolutionary progress that prevents us from embracing this obvious piece of progress in the peeling of fruit? Does the fear of being looked at like a monkey outweigh the small trace of inconvenience that comes from changing your line of attach?
For me, this is the obsession that won’t go away. Please help me by at least trying to peel your banana like a monkey.