This episode, we talk with Charles Duhigg about how our everyday habits shape us, and how we can use them to improve and excel in and out of the workplace. Charles shares the somewhat surprising science behind habits, and Andrew contemplates government conspiracy theories.
Charles Duhigg has spent much of his career studying (and reporting on) the science of behavior. He’s the author of the bestsellers The Power of Habit and Smarter, Better, Faster, and wrote for many years at The New York Times, where he won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting. He has appeared on This American Life, N.P.R., The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Frontline, and many other infinitely more respectable programs than this one.
Charles was interviewed by Kassi Whale, a writer, journalist, and fan-favorite here at the The Work Place.
Host: Andrew Scarcella
Guest: Charles Duhigg
• 3:33 - Habit building from inside the U.S. Military
• 5:00 - From journalism to business
• 7:13 - Revealing the hidden structure of habits
“I'm trying to reveal to people these hidden structures in our world that might be keeping someone down, might be hurting someone in ways that they don't understand, and at least give them the choice.” - Charles Duhigg
• 9:10 - Wendy Wood’s work studying habits at Duke
• 10:30 - The 3 components of habits
• 13:00 - Leadership and decision making
“About 40 to 45% of what we all do every day is a habit.” - Charles Duhigg
• 15:30 - Change and anxiety in the workplace
“Your job as a CEO is to make 3 important choices a year; how do you make those choices so that you make the right decision?” - Charles Duhigg
1. The first is that every habit has 3 components: the cue, the routine, and the reward. The cue is the trigger for the behavior, the routine is the desired behavior itself, and the reward is what you get out of doing it. Now most people, when they’re trying to change their habits, focus on the routine, the behavior itself. But what Charles Duhigg says is that the cue and the reward are equally powerful. The key to changing our habits lies in understanding WHY those habits exist, what rewards are driving them and the cues that trigger them. Want to learn more about the habit loop? Bike down to your local library and check out a copy of The Power of Habit. Or, you know, order it on Amazon Prime like everything else.
2. The second is that anxiety is a necessary part of change. As Charles puts it, “Anxiety is a sign that people are reacting sensibly to the change around them.” Which should be some comfort to those of us who feel like we’re living in an age of anxiety. But to those of us in charge of shaping and molding our workplace cultures, it’s a blinking red light on the instrument panel. Cultural growth, however well designed, can lead to anxiety in the workplace. Don’t fear it, though, fight it—with clear, upfront communication. Tell your leaders, your team members, your executives, WHY their workplace culture is important, HOW they play a role in it, and WHAT will be changing. It won’t just ease their minds, it’ll open them to new ideas and help them become a part of a thriving workplace culture.
3. The third is that I’m not sure if the idea of the U.S. Military being the largest habit-changing machine in history is interesting or terrifying. On one hand, think of the data, the learnings, the uncountable insights into what really makes people tick. On the other hand, maybe all those conspiracy theories about secret military mind control projects aren’t so crazy after all . . . Who else has the money, the means, the technology, the sheer power to manipulate the malleable minds of the american public and make them think that the Bachelor should be on for 23 seasons, not to mention spin-offs including The Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise, Bachelor in Paradise: After Paradise, and The Bachelor Winter Games.
The Work Place is sponsored by O.C. Tanner, the global leader in engaging workplace cultures. O.C. Tanner’s Culture Cloud™️ provides a single, modular suite where all employee experience apps are in sync, giving teams the integrated tools they need when, where, and how they need them.
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