Recommended Reading is brought to you by The Lean Book Shop. Think book reviews, without all the fodder. Recommended Reading presents a concise summary of the key themes, concepts and key learning points that will contribute to your learning journey. Featured books will include new and significant texts from the world of lean thinking, as well as hand-selected pieces to contribute to the continuous improvement . . . of you.
This month’s recommended reading from The Lean Book Shop:
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Full Book Reviews
Why You Need to Read It
Consider the following:
- Why, despite the best of intentions, do some individuals struggle their entire lives to maintain a healthy lifestyle, while others can do so seemingly with little or no effort?
- Why, despite massive investments of money, time and effort, do the vast majority of enterprises fail to successfully make the transition to a successful lean organization?
Although these are two questions from two apparently different worlds, they share a common answer. Success and failure, whether at an individual, organizational or even a societal level, are products of habit. But don’t take my word for it . . .
(I know. I KNOW. You already know what’s coming next. You’ve heard the quote before. Probably many times over. I try to keep things fresh here at TheKaiZone, but I think in this case that it bears repeating.)
We are what we repeatably do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~Aristotle
In The Power of Habit, Pulitzer Prize winning author Charles Duhigg curates the latest research from the cognitive sciences to create a simple, practical model – the habit loop – for the basis of habit formation. The book builds on the powerful framework of the habit loop to expose the no-longer-secret techniques by which we can eliminate existing, unwanted habits and replace them with new habits geared for success.
While potentially life-altering at an individual level, the true power of the habit loop lies in its ability to scale seamlessly; organizations of all sizes can apply the simple, yet elegant habit loop to change their culture and achieve new levels of success. Duhigg bolsters this claim by including real-world success stories featuring the evolution of the Alcoa safety culture, habit-based targeted advertising by Target, and the reincarnation of Febreze. I should mention, however, that I found the Target case study more disturbing – an example of creepy, corporate habit manipulation – than inspiring. Feel free to form your own opinion.
Skeptical? Can one book really have a truly life-altering impact? The answer is yes. I know, because I
speak write from experience. The very foundation on which I have built and operated this site, in addition to countless other improvements in my life, have been built on the principles of the habit loop. And if you’d like proof, please read my previous posts that demonstrate real-life examples of the techniques in action:
- How I improved my parenting with the habit loop: Leanable Moment #2: Problem Solving Skills for Your Children
- How I gained a healthy lifestyle with the habit loop: Leanable Moment #3: How I Added 7 Years to My Life in Just 3 Months
Key Learning Points
- The Habit Loop. Habits are more than just individual actions. Rather, they consist of three individual components: a cue, a routine and a reward. The three pieces when executed in sequence – the cue triggering a routine, which in turn generates a reward – form the basis of the habit loop illustrated below.Our primary failure in attempting to commit to new behaviors is that we focus solely on the desired routine. New habit formation requires that we close the habit loop by pairing the routine with an appropriate cue and reward.
- Habit Change. Altering existing habits is generally more difficult than creating new habits. Often, we attempt to change our behavior simply by ignoring the call of the reward. For example, to improve our eating habits, we eliminate the rewards that unhealthy foods bring by giving them up completely. The problem, as anyone who has attempted to lose weight can attest, is that as long as the cues and the rewards still exist, we must rely solely on our willpower to avoid temptation. Self-control, however, functions like a muscle and will tire to the point of exhaustion when subjected to continuous use. Successfully breaking a bad habit requires a deep understanding of the rewards that we seek. Do we eat bad food because we it tastes good, or because it temporarily reduces our stress levels? When this is understood, we must identify and substitute an alternative and desired action that will produce the exact same reward in response to the existing cues in our lives. If, like me, you are a stress-eater, consider substituting a short walk or jog to reduce stress when otherwise the trigger of your stress would compel you to eat that deep-fried, frosted, greasy, chocolicious treat on a stick.
- Keystone Habits. As Duhigg explains, a keystone habit is “a pattern [of behavior] that has the power to start a chain reaction, changing other habits as it moves throughout an organization.” In other words, some habits matter more than other habits. Transformation of an organization, therefore, can be achieved by identifying and targeting a critical, few desired behaviors. The problem, however, is that keystone habits are difficult to predict ahead of time. The identification of keystone habits requires that we observe the change process directly with an eye for the specific actions that are catalyzing positive change in other areas.
The Power of Habit can be purchased via Amazon.com by clicking the link above. It is also available in The Lean Book Shop under the Self-Improvement category.
Have you read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg? Did it help you to establish successful habits or break bad habits in your life? Use the comments section below to share your experiences with TheKaiZone community.