Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg - Book Review

Publisher's write-up:

'In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us into the thrilling and surprising world of the scientific study of habits.

He examines why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. He visits laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. And he uncovers how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr.

The result is a compelling and an empowering discovery: the key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive or even building revolutionary companies is understanding how habits work. By harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.'

I started reading this book from Charles Duhigg having no clue as to what he was going to talk about and considering his background, I thought this was going to be on habits of business and purely a business related book. However, as I started reading, I realised that he touched upon habits in general and in fact, habits of successful organisations was only a part of the book, which is split into three; habits of individuals, habits of organisations and habits of societies and thus, this is a part self-help book and partly business related.

I liked it how the author started off explaining habits and formed a very simple equation for it, cue --> leading to routine --> leading to reward. The author then uses stories of how habits were created, with examples everyone could relate to, such as how Pepsodent's marketing in the early 20th century led to creation of a habit among the masses; regarding the success of Alcoa and Starbucks and finally, the spread of the Civil Rights movements in the United States and why the arrest of Rosa Parks' impacted whereas the arrests of other black women earlier didn't. I found it that the author had used all contemporary examples and not of obscure companies that people could not relate to.

The author also addresses certain habits that people have which they are unable to control, such as smoking, drinking and gambling. While I, personally need not be concerned about any of them, like anyone else, I also do have certain habits that I am not too proud of and am unable to control and in that way, some of the tips given by the author was useful; especially, the appendix to the book. Giving all these examples is one thing but then, that would have been just another motivational speech. How to identify that 'cue' is always difficult and the author tells how one goes about it and gives tips, taking himself as an example.

I also found some of the facts that the author said really interesting - especially regarding how the retail chain in the US, Target, find out what the customer wants even before she or he comes to know of their requirements. Yes, I have been to shops and have filled out 'privileged member' forms and cards and I even knew to the extent that they are least interested in offering you rewards for loyalty but then, little did I know that they used the data to understand your habits, develop algorithms and make bounty out of you.

Moreover, considering that the author doesn't have technical expertise on the subject, with regard to neurology, the use of jargons was minimal and I could easily understand as to what point he was trying to make; though, I understand that the same could be a demerit for someone from the profession as they might have felt that the author was oversimplifying the matter, I maybe wrong but usually, what a plebeian loves is loathed by an expert.

However, coming to the other side, I felt that the author gave a way too many examples. He had already successfully established the power of habit in the minds of the reader with the first few examples but then, he went on giving these examples for nearly 275 odd pages which was a little too much. Moreover, I felt that he over simplified the turnaround by Paul O'Neill for Alcoa; I agree that creating a culture of safety would have a domino effect on some of the other functions but then putting the entire success down to a single factor is akin to the single solution devised by the Communist Utopia for a macro problem and we all saw the dismal results it had yielded towards the end of the 20th century.

With that said, I would say that it is an excellent self help book, has got some really interesting facts and now that I think of it, I myself would have to implement some of those aspects into my life. A very good read, I give the book a seven on ten.

Rating - 7/10

Have a nice day,

1 comment:

  1. I liked the review ^_^ Lend me the book sometime :)


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