[notes] The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (2014) by Charles Duhigg #

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Part One: The Habits of Individual #

1. The Habit Loop (How Habits Work) #

The Habit Loop: Cue, Routine, Reward

“This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.”

2. The Craving Brain (How to Create New Habits) #

“This explains why habits are so powerful: They create neurological cravings. Most of the time, these cravings emerge so gradually that we’re not really aware they exist, so we’re often blind to their influence. But as we associate cues with certain rewards, a subconscious craving emerges in our brains that starts the habit loop spinning.”

“This is how new habits are created: by putting together a cue, a routine, and a reward, and then cultivating a craving that drives the loop.”

3. The Golden Rule of Habit Change (Why Transformation Occurs) #

“We know that a habit cannot be eradicated – it must, instead, be replaced. And we know that habits are most malleable when the Golden Rule of habit change is applied: If we keep the same cue and the same reward, a new routine can be inserted. But that’s now enough. For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. And most often, that belief only emerges with the help of a group.”

Part Two: The Habits of Successful Organizations #

4. Keystone Habits (Which Habits Matter Most) #

“Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are part of how keystone habits create widespread changes.”

5. Starbucks and the Habit of Success #

Marshmallow experiment conducted at Stanford in 1960’s:

“Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things… If you use it up too early on tedious tasks like writing emails or filling out complicated and boring expense forms, all the strength will be gone by the time you get home.”

6. The Power of a Crisis (How Leaders Create Habits Through Accident and Design) #

An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change (1982) by Yale professors Richard Nelson and Sidney Winter:
“Much of a firm’s behavior is best understood as a reflection of general habits and strategic orientations coming from the firm’s past,” rather than “the result of a detailed survey of the remote twigs of the decision tree.”

“These organizational habits – or routines, as Nelson and Winter called them – are enormously important, because without them, most companies would never get any work done. Routines provide the hundreds of unwritten rules that companies need to operate. They allow workers to experiment with new ideas without having to ask for permission at every step. They provide a kind of "organizational memory”, so that managers don’t have to reinvent the sales process every six months or panic each time a VP quits.“

"Organizational habits offer a basic promise: If you follow the established patterns and abide by the truce, then rivalries won’t destroy the company, the profits will roll in, and, eventually, everyone will get rich.”

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“Good leaders seize crises to remake organizational habits.”

7. How Target Knows What You Want Before You Do (When Companies Predict and Manipulate Habits) #

“Andreasen wanted to know why these people had deviated from their usual [shopping] patterns. What he discovered has become a pillar of modern marketing theory: People’s buying habits are more likely to change when they go through a major life event.”

“One night, Meyer sat down and started listening to a bunch of sticky songs in a row, one right after the other, over and over again. As he did, he started to notice a similarity among them. It wasn’t that the songs sounded alike. Some of them were ballads, other were pop tunes. However, they all seemed similar in that each sounded exactly like what Meyer expected to hear from that particular genre. They sounded familiar.”

“Our brains crave familiarity in music because familiarity is how we manage to hear without becoming distracted by all the sound. Just as the scientists at MIT discovered that behavioral habits prevent us from becoming overwhelmed by the endless decisions we would otherwise have to make each day.”

“That’s why songs that sound "familiar” – even if you’ve never heard them before – are sticky.“

"DJ’s starting making sure that whenever "Hey Ya!” was played, it was sandwiched between songs that were already popular.“

Part Three: The Habits of Societies #

8. Saddleback Church and the Montgomery Bus Boycott (How Movements Happen) #

"When sociologists have examined how opinions move through communities, how gossip spreads or political movements start, they’ve discovered a common pattern: Our weak-tie acquaintances are often as influential – if not more – than our close-tie friends.”

“Individuals with few weak ties will be deprived of information from distant parts of the social system… and may be difficult to organize or integrate into political movements of any kind. While members of one of two cliques may be efficiently recruited, the problem is that, without weak ties, any momentum generated int his way does not spread beyond the clique. As a result most of the population will be untouched.”

9. The Neurology of Free Will (Are We Responsible for Our Habits?) #


The Framework:

  1. Identify the routine
  2. Experiment with rewards
  3. Isolate the cue
  4. Have a plan

1. Identify the Routine #

“To understand your own habits, you need to identify the components of you loops. Once you have diagnosed the habit loop of a particular behavior, you can look for ways to supplant old vices with new routines.”

2. Experiment with Rewards #

“Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings. But we’re often not conscious of the cravings that drive our behaviors.”

“To figure out which cravings are driving particular habits, it’s useful to experiment with different rewards. This might take a few days, or a week, or longer. During that period, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to make a real change – thinking of yourself as a scientist in the data collection stage.”

“As you test four or five different rewards, you can use an old trick to look for patterns: After each activity, jot down on a piece of paper the first three things that come to mind when you get back to your desk.”

“Then, set an alarm on your watch or computer for fifteen minutes. When it goes off, ask yourself: Do you still feel the urge for that cookie.”

“And why the fifteen-minute alarm? Because the point of these tests is to determine the reward you’re craving. If, fifteen minutes after eating a donut, you still feel an urge to get up and go to the cafeteria, then your habit isn’t motivated by a sugar craving. If, after gossiping at a colleague’s desk, you still want a cookie, then the need for human contact isn’t what’s driving your behavior.”

“By experimenting with different rewards, you can isolate what you are actually craving, which is essential in redesigning the habit.”

3. Isolate the Cue #

“To identify a cue amid the noise, we can… identify categories of behaviors ahead of time in order to see patterns. Experiments have shown that almost all habitual cues fit into one of five categories: Location, Time, Emotional state, Other people, Immediately preceding action.”

4. Have A Plan #

“Once you’ve figured out your habit loop – you’ve identified the reward driving your behavior, the cue triggering it, and the routine itself – you can begin to shift the behavior. You can change to a better routine by planning for the cue and choosing a behavior that delivers the reward you are craving. What you need is a plan.”


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