Monthly Archives: January 2015

“The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg

Synopsis

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg is a book that explores the science behind why habits exist and how we can change them. Using a range of well-narrated examples, Duhigg explains how old habits can be overridden by identifying and changing the cue and reward of the habit in the habit loop (see Figure 1).

The Power of Habit is a light and fun read.

Lessons

On changing habits…

Duhigg says that because all individuals and habits are different, there are many formulas for changing habits. He recommends a simplified, practical framework for understanding how habits work and how they might change.

In short:

1) identify the routine

2) experiment with the rewards by writing down your emotions and feelings

3) isolate the cue, which may fall into five categories: location, time, emotional state, other people, and immediately preceding actions

4) have a plan

Figure 1: The habit loop

Duhigg also recommends that people focus on one keystone habit to start with. A keystone habit is one that has a leveraged, positive impact on other habits. Exercising routinely is an example of a keystone habit.

Quotes

Tony Dungy (legendary NFL coach) : “Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”

Tony Dungy: “Belief is the biggest part of success.”

“Not sharing an opportunity to learn is a cardinal sin.”

“The golden rule of habit change: you can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.”

Something interesting

The basal ganglia is the area in the brain where habits are stored. Humans evolved to form habits because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.

Claude Hopkins, an advertising pioneer, commercialised the habit of brushing your teeth daily by changing the cue and reward in the habit loop.

Foaming was introduced as a reward in shampoo, laundry detergent and toothpaste to enforce the reward of the habit.

Self-help guru Robin Sharma regularly cites a study by Phillippa Lally et al. at the University College London stating that on average, it takes 66 days before a new behaviour becomes automatic.

Links

Charles Duhigg’s website

Charles Duhigg on Twitter

Thanks for replying to my review, Charles.

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“The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation” by Peter Senge

Synopsis

The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation is a management book by Peter Senge that uses a systems thinking framework to tie together five team disciplines that convert traditional, authoritarian organisations into learning organisations. Systems thinking is the process of understanding how interdependent elements within a system influence one another. The book is premised on the idea that in the long-run, the only sustainable source of competitive advantage is your organisation’s ability to learn faster than its competitors.

This is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read. Although it was published in 1990, the ideas are still relevant today, and apply to both the individual and the organisation.

Lessons

On mental models…

Mental models are deeply ingrained assumptions, generalisations, images, stories and biases that influence people’s understanding of the world and their decision-making.

Senge says the problem with mental models is not that they are right or wrong – all models are simplifications or approximations of the truth. The problem is when they exist below the level of awareness.

He says that because the world is constantly evolving, it is important to be intellectually rigorous, seeing reality objectively by learning to suspend our assumptions and unearth our own internal pictures of the world. For me, developing this skill is about practicing the art of listening and asking the correct questions.

Quotes

“To practice a discipline is to be a lifelong learner.”

“Through learning we re-create ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we re-perceive the world and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life”

“Small changes can produce big results – but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious.”

“In the presence of greatness, pettiness disappears. In the absence of a great dream, pettiness prevails.”

Something interesting

The book ends with a paragraph about the Gaia Hypothesis – the theory that all life on earth is itself a single, living organism. This touches on one of the key ideas of the book: that we live in a world of extraordinary interdependence.

This recent talk by Peter entitled “Systems Thinking for a Better World” has inspired me to learn more actively.

 Links

 Peter Senge Wikipedia

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