Habits Aren't Destiny
For You or For a Company
In his new book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change It, award-winner New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the edge of scientific discoveries. He explains why habits exist and how they can be changed.
To put his conclusions simply, following a habit begins with a cue, which then leads to a habit loop. In his own experience, Duhigg had gained weight, and one cause was eating chocolate chip cookies at afternoon break time.
He concluded that the cookies led to conversing with people, which was what he enjoyed. Instead of going to the cafeteria, he started having afternoon conversations with people he met near his office.
Some people get up in the morning, run, feel great and eat breakfast. Others never get started. One simple cue was running shoes left by the bedside. They got up, slipped them on and ran.
A corporate example of cues was achieved by Paul O'Neill after he was named CEO of Alcoa. The company had sold more and reduced expenses, but wasn't moving forward. O'Neill focused on safety. If an employee got hurt (the cue), senior members of the department had to deliver a plan to O'Neill showing how the injury wouldn't happen again.
The executives had to become intimately involved in the manufacturing and have conversations with front-line workers. To protect their workers, Alcoa had to have the most streamlined aluminum company on earth. Over the next decade, they did, and profits soared.
Procter and Gamble worried over slow sales of its Febreze, which killed household odors. One woman said she liked the way Febreze made the house smell good after it was cleaned. P&G focused on that cue, which made Febreze a big success.
So remember, bad habits can be broken. You too can decide to change your behavior.