Performance Management Blog

Some Punchlines on “Teaching The Caterpillar to Fly!”

For nearly 20 years, I have been playing with this theme of caterpillars, butterflies and change along with using a joke to set up a discussion about perceptions and thinking and limits to improvement. One of the realities is:

(That is “The” as pronounced “Duh.”)

Many managers appear to be resistant to new ideas for workplace improvement based on employee perceptions and surveys done since I was a boy. It may be that they KNOW the answer (or are expected to know the answer since that is their perception of their job and the implementation of their ego) and they thus functionally limit themselves to new information as well as limit motivation and ownership.

Let me tell you what happened to me and ask you to rate some of the comments people made. In a workshop in Hong Kong, I said:

There are two caterpillars sitting on the wagon and a beautiful butterfly floats by. The one caterpillar says to the other:

“You’ll never get ME up in one of those butterfly things.”

People did not laugh at the joke so I asked them to talk about it for two minutes and give me their reactions and thoughts. They were English-speaking Chinese and I was not sure that they understood the joke, so I simply asked them to discuss it. For two years, I had always thought my joke was about active refusal / resistance to change.

Surprisingly, they generated a lot of ideas. Which do you think was their best punch line to the story?

[polldaddy poll=5838799]

You may vote more than one time, if you like.

And I know the one that generally gets the most laughs as well as generates the most thinking about how things really work.

Hope you like this. And I will appreciate seeing your responses.

Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant, earning CPT and CPF credentials. -- You can reach Scott at and a detailed profile is here: -- Scott is the original designer of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game and the Square Wheels® images for organizational development.

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