Books: Unlock Clues for Understanding Behavior and Breaking Routine


Robert LoCascio, founder and CEO of LivePerson, a company that provides online customer assistance and other services to businesses, recently described in an interview with The New York Times a moment when he felt his company was falling into a pattern that didn’t make sense.

The company offices were arranged with cubicles in the middle and offices on the outside. Walking through, he noticed two guys jammed into one tiny office, despite many open cubicles. When he asked why, he was told that the guys had been promoted to directors and the habit was for directors to get offices — so there they were.

Businesses, just like individuals, are creatures of habit. Building and using positive habits can strengthen a business. That’s among the ideas presented by author Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.

The book comes highly recommended: The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times both named it one of the best books of 2012. Duhigg, however, is not a business theorist or sociology expert. He became interested in the science of habits eight years ago while in Baghdad as a newspaper reporter.

Duhigg encountered a major who had analyzed videotape of riots. The major noticed that if food vendors came into a plaza where a potential outbreak might happen, a full riot was likely to ensue. By keeping the vendors out of the plaza, the crowd would usually break up on its own. Removing the food vendors changed the crowd’s behavior.

The major confided to Duhigg that the U.S. military is one of the best examples of habit formation in history. Understanding habits, according to the major, was one of the most important things he had learned.

Duhigg was hooked on the idea and began to investigate the power of habits. The result is an intriguing look at the impact of habits and how we can use them to greater effect in a variety of ways.

The book is a combination of research and stories that makes for a fascinating read.

The author reviews a broad range of ideas and topics, including how habits are made and can be remade.

In the opening chapter of the book’s first section, “The Habit Loop,” the author explains what a habit is. By some estimates, habits make up 40 percent or more of our daily routine. To form a habit, first there is a cue, then a routine, followed by a reward.

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