The Power of Habit


The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

by Charles Duhigg





“The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg is a wonderful blend of business, science, and personal improvement. The three major sections of the book cover the habits of individuals, organizations, and societies.

The first section was the most clear and actionable. Understanding the habit loop provides a framework to see how we slip into habits and how those habits can be disrupted or replaced. Surrounded by the Internet, TV, and radio 24×7, understanding how our habits are created and exploited is important for the consumer. Likewise, understanding the power and issues of building our products into customer habits has become critical to Corporate Marketing. For me, this also reinforced the critical partnership between Marketing and IT.

The second section had a great discussion of Tony Dungee’s focus on training football players with new habits and to focus on perfect execution of habits rather than improvising. These lessons could be relevant to IT leaders as they implement new methodologies – whether ITIL for operations or Agile for development.

After that, the book got a bit fuzzy. The fact that there are keystone habits which open an organization to more significant change is reasonable, but there are no hints for identifying keystone habits. For example, it is not intuitive how, as the new CEO of Alcoa, Paul O’Neill was able to identify safety as a keystone topic. I suppose recognition of the problem is the first step to improvement, but I would like to have heard Duhigg’s advice on how to take the next step.

The third section had interesting general ideas, but again, it is not clear what we do with the information about habits of societies. I also found the discussion of a woman struggling with a habit of gambling to be a bit tedious.

Perhaps most important, Duhigg convinced me that habits are central to life (and business) and that habits can be changed. For that alone it would be worth reading.