Friday, April 06, 2012

Who Sets My Habits?

The Economist has a review of the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. Of course habit is great to liberate us from the need to reanalyze every action. We don't have to reconsider what to avoid at every meal if once we make it a habit to eat healthy food; we don't need to think about every driving decision once we make it a habit to drive safely.
The Power of Habit is divided into three parts. The first focuses on individuals. It shows how entrenched habits shape individual lives and analyses how those habits can be broken and rearranged....... 
The second part of the book concentrates on organisations. Mr Duhigg shows how managers can change entire firms by changing a handful of “keystone habits”....... 
The book’s final part looks at the habits of societies—what Walter Bagehot, an early editor of The Economist, called “the cake of custom”. Mr Duhigg argues that some of the greatest social reformations have been produced as much by rewiring social habits as by agitating for grand abstractions like justice.
I like the idea of organizational and social reform as processes of changing habits, building new good habits and eliminating old bad habits. The problem is, of course, that the with others changing my habits for me, I have to depend that their definitions of "good habits" and "bad habits" correspond to mine.

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