The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business by Charles Duhigg

The author exemplifies the conditioning of habit and its disruption in this book, The Power of Habit. He illustrates the strength and the fragility of habit as illustrated in the example of the routine political demonstration disrupted by the absence of street food vendors. At times Duhigg stretches his analysis to fit his theory, forcing the story to fit the premise, as in the case of the Rhode Island hospital. Here it was not habit but fear that primarily determined behavior. Target uses purchasing behavior and analysis, as a demographic to merchandise, but it is not habit that determines a pregnant woman buys vitamins, or the grabs the new dvd during checkout, it is convenience. Overall though he puts forward a theory of cue, routine and reward that feeds our habitual behaviors – the conditioned response of Pavlov’s dog, as the basis for habit formation.

Understanding behavior and habit within public library staff, can improve the workplace environment for staff and the public. Staff is used to interacting with resources, collections, materials, procedures and each other in routine fashion. Work-arounds are habitually used instead of finding a solution. For instance, the time clocks may differ in three locations, but this is well know and used to manipulate the recording of the workday. However, if the time clocks were synchronized, this would break the habitual lateness of employees. Allowing communication patterns with customers or staff that negatively impact the self and the workplace could be improved by recognizing the habit loop of cue, routine and response. Acknowledging habit in customers would at least be reason for pause when considering changes and the impacts of those changes on the routines of customers.

Overall Duhigg convincingly brings forth a discussion worthy of attention. Habit abounds in work and life.   Understanding habit and human behavior, using that understanding with integrity and wisdom has the potential to transform individuals, families, organizations, and communities.


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