Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Habits in the Making

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg explores how our habits shape our decisions, drive our behaviors and cravings, and underlie everything we do from an individual and societal standpoint. He explores our unconscious and conscious processes of habit formation and breaks down the habit cycle with emphasis on how to design powerful habit-changing routines with proper identification of cues and rewards.

This book is a must-read for product designers and marketers serious about creating life-changing habits that people crave.

Let's Break It Down

Duhigg show us different areas of life and business where taking control of habit cycles leads to powerful shifts in mentality.

  • In advertising and product design, he investigates how Pepsodent transformed the entire US market and convinced everyone to start brushing their teeth when previously only 6% of households had a tube of toothpaste in their homes. After 5 years of running their campaign, 87% of households had a Pepsodent smile. By properly identifying a potential habit cycle’s cue and reward, Pepsodent was able to design an advertising campaign that carved out an entirely new market for their product.
  • In manufacturing and developing values-based organizations, we see how Alcoa reclaimed their top position in the steel manufacturing industry by focusing on safety-driven habit formation rather than profits. By manipulating what Duhigg calls “Keystone habits,” Alcoa was able to capitalize on the cascading effects through the changes of other closely-held habits. Not only is Alcoa a safer place to work than in America’s general workforce despite handling molten steel and machines that can rip a man’s arm off, Alcoa’s workers became more engaged, more productive, and so dedicated to the company’s bottom line on safety that it affected them everywhere they went. Employees were so used to making suggestions to improve worker safety standards that soon they started making suggestions in other aspects of their work as well, leading to some very profitable improvements in manufacturing processes. In focusing change on a keystone habit of Safety, Alcoa enjoyed a 5x increase in net income and increased their market cap to $27 billion by the time their satefy-focused CEO left.
  • In the realm of social movements that lead to drastic changes in both policy and society’s way of life, The Power of Habit explores why Rosa Park’s refusal to sit at the back of the bus caught fire and ignited a massive civil rights movement when other people’s refusals to move didn’t catch on. Duhigg emphasizes the concepts of strong and weak social ties that need to be present in order for new societal habits to take shape and persevere.
  • In his findings on personal development, the author breaks down how habits are formed with a biological basis and investigates the question, given the unconscious encoding of our habits by our by basal ganglias, a very primitive brain structure near our brain stems, how much are our bad habits are really our fault? Duhigg contends that if one is consciously aware of their bad habits, that they are able to change them despite any perceived difficulties. To start, we must identify the cue which sets off our bad routine and the reward that we crave which powers the habit cycle. In adjusting routines and rewards, we can change our cravings and bad routines and give birth to more productive habits in life and in business.

Additional Consideration

Charles Duhigg also investigates how sports teams with horrible records can become Super Bowl champions, how Olympic athletes win gold even when things go horribly wrong, and how to ensure, through the mastering of our own habits cycles, we’re all functioning at our best. Definitely check it out!