I learnt about …


I was listening to the audiobook for “Questions Are the Answer” by Hal Gregerson and it mentioned an approach used by the X lab at Alphabet nicknamed “MonkeyFirst”.

It talks about the hypothetical problem of getting a monkey to recite passages of Shakespeare while sitting at the top of a 10 foot pedestal. There is a natural tendency to start working on the pedestal. It is something we know how to do and would show progress.

They argue that there is no point building the pedestal at all as the significantly bigger problem, which may be unachievable, is the training of the monkey so this should be tackled first. Even though it is a bigger problem it will in fact allow the problem to fail quicker.

For this to work there has to be a culture that allows, and even encourages, failure otherwise people won’t take the risks of trying things and failing fast.

They now have a habit of adding the tag “#MonkeyFirst” if they perceive someone is not tackling the difficult problems first.



Questions are the Answer