Tag Archives: Charles Duhigg

Reverse Innovation; Abundance – Our 2 Books for the July 6 First Friday Book Synopsis

We had a wonderful gathering this morning for the June 1 First Friday Book Synopsis.  Karl Krayer presented his synopsis of All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.  I presented the best-selling and much-talked-about The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.  These are both genuinely useful books.

(Our synopses, with handouts + audio of our live presentations from this morning, will be available soon on our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com).

On July 6, Karl will present his synopsis Reverse Innovation: Create Far From Home, Win Everywhere by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble (foreword by Indra K. Nooyi).

I will present my synopsis of Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler.  Peter Diamandis is the founder of the X Prize, and you can watch his TED talk, Abundance is Our Future, here.  So this book will give us a big hefty dose of optimism, which I suspect we could all use right about now.

Click on the flier below to read all the details. We begin at 7:00, and conclude right around 8:05.  And you eat a great buffet with made-to-order omelet bar breakfast, experience great visiting and table conversations, and receive a quick, substantive jolt of content.  Come join us.

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The Power of Habit, & All In – Coming for the June, 2012 First Friday Book Synopsis

How do we keep getting better at what we do?  One way is to keep a commitment to the task, the discipline, of life-long learning.  And so we keep learning, and then try to put this learning into practice.

To quote Peter Drucker, we all need to cultivate and maintain the “habit of continuous learning.”

We can help you with this “keep learning” task with our monthly book synopsis event.  Now in our 15th year of monthly gatherings, we have a large group of life-long learners at the First Friday Book Synopsis.  This morning, we presented synopses of Imagine:  How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer, and Take the Stairs by Rory Vaden.

Next month, on June 1, I will present my synopses of The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (a terrific and important book), and Karl Krayer will present his synopis of All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.

Corporate culture; personal and corporate habits.  Pretty good issues to focus on.

If you are in the DFW area, come join us for the June 1 First Friday Book Synopsis.  Great conversations, wonderful food, and useful content – all fast-paced, in just over an hour.  Hope you can join us.  (You will be able to register soon from this web site).

We Need More Good Stories, with Fewer Simple Chronicles

You might not realize it, but you are a creature of an imaginative realm called Neverland.  Neverland is your home, and before you die, you will spend decades there. 
Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal:  How Stories Make Us Human

If you say, “The queen died, and the king died,” that is a chronicle.
If you say, “The queen died, and the king died, from grief,” that is a story.  (Joe Lambert and Nina Mullen, drawing from E. M. Forster).
Bob Johansen:  Get There Early:  Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present


I heard Krys Boyd on KERA interview Jonathan Gottschall about his book, The Storytelling Animal.  (Krys is a great interviewer).  And I remembered the brief description of the difference between a chronicle and a story from Get There Early.

We care about stories.  We learn from stories.  We place ourselves within stories, because we all know that every story, is, in some way, our own story.  Last night I watched House.  Wilson has cancer.  A very close friend of my wife has cancer.  The fictional story is her story – our story.  You know…

Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.  
(John Donne, For Whom the Bell Tolls)

In the interview, Gottschall observed that stories always include two elements:  some form of dilemma, and some form of resolution.  It is the old “problem-solution” formula for persuasion.  And when a story is told well, it always makes us stop and ask:  “What is my dilemma?  Can I find a way out; a solution; a resolution that works for me, and hopefully for others?”

I read a lot of nonfiction books — but, sadly, too little fiction.  Gottschall observed in the interview that people who expose themselves to more fiction have an easier time interacting with others.  They are more socially connected; better connected.  And, thankfully, he reminded us that stories preceded printed books, so maybe I get almost enough fiction from my favorite television shows.  I guarantee that, in House alone, there is enough dilemma and conflict to last a while.

In my own reading, I have come to realize that the best nonfiction writers are, in fact, superior story tellers.  I think this explains the popularity of Malcolm Gladwell, and why I have so warmed to The Power of Habit and Imagine just recently.  They are both written by superior story tellers  (Charles Duhigg and Jonah Lehrer).  Books that are principle-rich and story-poor just aren’t quite as engaging or gripping.  Or insightful.

And I think it is why I remember some books I read years ago more than others.  David Halberstam is always at the top of my list, because he was such a wonderful story teller.

In the realm of organizational culture, story plays a major role.  To build corporate culture, to build corporate strength, to build a true community, tell the stories of your organization.  Yes, tell the good stories, the stories of success — but tell especially the “struggle” stories.  “This is what we faced.  This is how we overcame it.”  A well-told struggle story can help a current struggle seem not quite so overwhelming.

We love a good story.  And, it turns out, we need a steady dose of good stories.


Good stories move us. They touch us, they teach us, and they cause us to remember.  They enable the listener to put the behavior in a real context and understand what has to be done in that context to live up to expectations. 
…storytelling is the ultimate leadership tool.   (Elizabeth Weil).
James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner:  Encouraging the Heart — A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others

From Celine Dion to OutKast – Melding the Brand New with the Familiar (insight from Charles Duhigg and Jonah Lehrer)

“People listen to Top 40 because they want to hear their favorite songs or songs that sound like their favorite songs.  When something different comes on, they’re offended.  They don’t want anything unfamiliar.”
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit

How do you get someone to want to listen to these guys?

When her music feels so much more familiar?

Here’s a tidbit from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  The issue is how a radio station introduces a new song by an unknown artist.  He describes in detail the attempt to make a big hit out of a song called “Hey Ya!” by OutKast.  (My apology – I don’t know this song.  You can watch the music video of it here).”  The research that music folks do that can practically guarantee when a song will be a hit was clear – this song was going to be a monster hit.  But, when stations would play it, people would switch stations during the song.  Not a good sign!

Here’s what they discovered:  they found out that even a sure-fire monster hit, when it is new, has to be sandwiched between two “familiar” songs, in order to keep people from switching stations.  And they have to follow this practice until listeners decide that this new song now sounded “familiar.”  Fascinating.

So, this is what they did:  they played a Celine Dion song, and then immediately followed with Hey Ya!, and then immediately after, they played another familiar song by another familiar artist.  The key word in all of this is “familiar.”  Interestingly, people were “sick of” Celine Dion, but they would not change the station, because she sounded “familiar.”  From Duhigg:

“There were songs that listeners said they actively disliked, but were sticky nonetheless…  Male listeners said they hated Celine Dion and couldn’t stand her songs.  But whenever a Dion tune came on the radio, they stayed tuned in.  Within the Los Angeles market, stations that regularly played Dion at the end of each hour – when the number of listeners was measured – could reliably boost their audience by as much as 3 percent, a huge figure in the radio world.  Male listeners may have thought they disliked Dion, but when her songs played, they stayed glued.”      

So I was sitting in church yesterday, Easter Sunday, and we were singing the Wesley hymn Christ The Lord is Risen Today.  And, at the conclusion of the service, the choir sang the Hallelujah Chorus.  Both songs were written centuries ago.  Wesley’s hymn was first published in 1739, and it was based on a fourteenth century version of a Latin hymn.  Handel wrote the Messiah in 1741.  So, these are not exactly examples of new, modern sacred music.

It was wonderful – and wonderfully familiar.

I had just finished reading the Duhigg book, and thought about this experience, comparing it to the “Hey Ya!” challenge.  The last thing I want on Easter Sunday is some new, modern, never-heard-before song.  I want the familiar.

So, what do we do with all this?  This may explain why introducing and accepting change is so hard.  People want the familiar.  Even the “familiar” that they no longer “want,” that they are “tired of,” they still want it because it feels “familiar.”

So, if you are proposing a change at your work, asking people to buy in to something they have not ever experienced, look for ways to either make if feel familiar, or, sandwich it in between other actions that are familiar.

No wonder change is so hard…

But, Part 2 – “On the Other Hand”:

But…  we live in an era when change has to be the name of the game.  So, how do we help people become more comfortable with the unfamiliar?

There are places where we do not want the familiar.  If we go to the annual auto show, we want the new and different to be on display.  And we are looking for the “cool” factor, the new and different and unfamiliar – the “I can’t wait to try that” factor.  Same with an electronics show.  We want to see the latest new gadgets and we look for those rare breakthroughs that will change our lives for the better.

So, maybe, in our work environments, we need some “what’s new and different” shows.  In Imagine, Jonah Lehrer describes Google’s CSI (Crazy Search Ideas) events:

“It’s like a middle-school science fair.  You see hundreds of posters from every conceivable field.  The guys doing nanotechnology are talking to the guys making glue.” 

Such events are “defined as” looking for the new – looking for the next, new, new change.  Maybe we need more of these, to get our change muscles the exercise they need, so that we aren’t offended with, and driven away by, the unfamiliar.

What are your Organizational Habits? – (Insight from Duhigg and Hamel)

I am presenting two new business books to different groups this week.  One, What Matters Now by Gary Hamel, at the First Friday Book Synopsis.  The other, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, to a private client (I will present it this summer at the First Friday Book Synopsis).  These books agree in a critical observation.  Here’s Duhigg’s description:

There are no organizations without institutional habits. There are only places where they are deliberately designed, and places where they are created without forethought, so they often grow from rivalries or fear.

Hamel spends many pages describing such organizational habits, as they now exist.  And, to summarize it from his perspective, the habit of most organizations is to protect the past more than to forge a new future.  Here’s just one quote of many:

Modern organizations weren’t designed to be adaptable; they were designed to be disciplined and efficient.

In other words, habits of efficiency rather than habits that lead to innovation.  In other words, when they got good, they wanted to stay good at what they got good at.  And, in doing so, they let the new, new thing slip right on past them, and thus, leave them behind.

So, here’s the question for us all:

What habits are we building to be successful today and tomorrow?

Because, this much is certain to me after reading Duhigg’s book – success comes through the habits we practice, both personally, and organizationally (and even societally).

Three Crucial Roles that Can Create Business Success (A Case Study about Apple from the NY Times)

{This is prompted by a terrific article, with many images that add insight, in the New York Times about Apple:  How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher.  Both Tyler Cowen and Paul Krugman have praised this article.  Cowen says it deserves one of the Sidney Awards from David Books:  “This is an excellent article, and perhaps it will win one of David Brooks’s Sidney Awards.”  Many others have written favorable reviews of the article.  In other words, it has been all over the place on the web!}

Though the article is being discussed regarding about Apple’s use of/dependence on work done in China, the article is an amazing Business Success 101 tour de force.

Here is what we learn, boiled own to a simple formula.  A company needs three roles filled very, very well to achieve success.  Here are those three roles:

#1 – The Role Of The “This Is What Needs To Be Done” Leader
#2 – The Role Of The “This Is How We Are Going To Get That Done” Make-It-Happen Overseer
#3 – The Role Of The “I/We Will Get That Done For You” Worker(S)

In the article, Steve Jobs, of course, filled the role of #1 – The Role Of The “This Is What Needs To Be Done” Leader.  Here’s the key excerpt:

In 2007, a little over a month before the iPhone was scheduled to appear in stores, Mr. Jobs beckoned a handful of lieutenants into an office. For weeks, he had been carrying a prototype of the device in his pocket.
Mr. Jobs angrily held up his iPhone, angling it so everyone could see the dozens of tiny scratches marring its plastic screen, according to someone who attended the meeting. He then pulled his keys from his jeans.
People will carry this phone in their pocket, he said. People also carry their keys in their pocket. “I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,” he said tensely. The only solution was using unscratchable glass instead. “I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.”

And then, the role of the #2 – The Role Of The “This Is How We Are Going To Get That Done” Make-It-Happen Overseer (“overseer” is the word I propose) was played by a “get to it to get-it-done” executive:

After one executive left that meeting, he booked a flight to Shenzhen, China. If Mr. Jobs wanted perfect, there was nowhere else to go.

A production line in Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China. The iPhone is assembled in this vast facility, which has 230,000 employees, many at the plant up to 12 hours a day, six days a week. (Thomas Lee/Bloomberg News)

And then ultimately the role of the #3 – The Role Of The “I/We Will Get That Done For You” Worker(S) was filled by Foxconn at Foxconn City in China.  The article is worth reading just to see how amazing their scheduling capabilities are at this company.

These three roles provide the essence of business success.. You have to know what to do; you have to have someone (know how to) make that happen; and then you have to have workers actually fulfill the “make it happen” role.

Call it what you want:  vision; planning; execution.  But this article in the New York Times is a great case study of just how to succeed in business.  These three roles have to be filled — and filled well!

(I’ll leave the discussion about sending some of the jobs overseas for others to discuss.  And, yes, there are some pretty serious issues to discuss about worker conditions.  But such discussion does not change the need for these three roles to be filled – and filled well).