Breaking the habit of dissent

Blair sent me this great story about harnessing the power of habit from NPR. It includes an explanation by business reporter Charles Duhigg from his upcoming book “The Power Of Habit” of how companies have successfully altered people’s habits by tapping into what the author refers to as the “habit loop.”

According to Duhigg, this loop has three parts: the cue, which triggers a behaviour; the routine, which is the behaviour itself of course; and the reward, which is the signal that goes to the brain to store this habit for future use or not.

Duhigg also talks about when Paul O’Neill took over as CEO of a dysfunctional Alcoa. By focusing on worker safety and the dangers of inefficient manufacturing to workers, O’Neill found a way to get everyone on the same page. He went on to build a highly profitable and efficient company.

The story serves as a reminder that a change in culture only takes place when you achieve a change in mindset; when you break what Duhigg calls a “keystone habit”.

So many companies instigate change programmes that demand the workers make all the changes. The lesson from O’Neill, highlighted by Charles Duhigg, is that you should always begin with an act of good faith that puts people on side with you. When people are there, when they have broken the keystone habit of simply disagreeing with you because that’s what they’re used to doing, then you have a situation where meaningful and sustained change is much more conducive.

If you really want to transform a dysfunctional culture into a purposeful brand culture, start by discussing and changing for the better the things that matter most to your people. Then, and only then, should you ask them to make changes for you.

Thanks Blair for the pointer.

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