The Power of Habit: A book review by Bob Morris

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and in Business
Charles Duhigg
Random House (2012)

A rock-solid framework for “understanding how habits work and a guide for experimenting with how they might change”

This is not an easy book to describe because Charles Duhigg offers such a wealth of information in so many different areas. For example:

o   What a habit is…and isn’t
o   What the habit loop is and does
o   How and why we form good and bad habits
o   Why it is so difficult to sustain good habits and so easy to sustain bad ones
o   Which external influences most effectively manipulate both good and bad habits
o   How to defend good habits
o   How to break bad habits
o   How and why our habits reveal our values

In Part One, Duhigg focuses on how habits emerge within individual lives; in the next, he examines the habits of successful companies and organizations; and then in Part Three, he looks at the habits of societies. “We now know why habits emerge, how they change, and the science behind their mechanics. We know how to break them into parts and rebuild them to our specifications. We know how to make people eat less, exercise more, work more efficiently, and live healthier lives. Transforming a habit isn’t necessarily easy or quick. It isn’t always simple. But it is possible. And now we know why.”  Also how.

There in a brief passage is the essence of what motivated Duhigg to write this book and also perhaps, just perhaps, a sufficient reason for people who read it to then rebuild their habits to their expectations, based on what they have learned from the book.

One of  Duhigg’s most valuable insights (among the several dozen he shares) is that organizations as well as individuals can develop bad habits or allow them to develop. For example, tolerating incivility and thus condoning it, conducting performance evaluations unfairly and/or inconsistently, and under-valuing employees and/or customers. However, in that event, only individuals can break those organizational bad habits and only if their habits are equal to that challenge. Duhigg devotes all of Part Two (Chapters 4-7) to a thorough explanation of how best to respond to that challenge. Stephen Covey also has much of value to say about what that requires of people in his classic, The 7 Habits 0f Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.


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