Here is an excerpt from an article written by John Boudreau for Talent Management magazine. He suggests that, for talent managers, “creating learning and change is as much about changing habits as it is about imparting skills or providing great experiences.” To check out all the resources and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and/or Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.
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Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, describes tantalizing evidence on how much retail marketers and others can learn from data on customers’ purchasing habits.
In Retooling HR, I suggested marketing frameworks could apply to talent, including talent segmentation, to target employment features to pivotal employee groups, just as marketers use consumer segmentation to target product features to pivotal consumer groups.
More lessons are emerging from marketing, this time from research on habits. Duhigg’s Feb. 19 article in The New York Times Magazine describes a predictive analytics scientist at a major retailer who discovered that shoppers’ purchasing habits are remarkably hard to break. Big-box retailers have lots of customers who shop for large quantities of staple items like paper towels, but do not purchase electronics, groceries or specialty foods, even though they are cheaper than at other stores. This happens because habits become unconscious.
Neuroscience research at MIT and other universities suggests the brain shuts down once the habit is formed to preserve conscious brain space. If you already know where to shop for electronics, why reconsider it?
It’s the same with habits like overeating, with complicated patterns of cues and rewards that may have little to do with hunger. Duhigg describes his habit of visiting the company cafeteria to buy a cookie at 3:30 p.m. each day. Upon analysis, it was a combination of mid-afternoon boredom, getting away from his desk and gossiping. The cookie was incidental to the actual reward, but it was no less a culprit in weight gain.
For talent managers, creating learning and change is as much about changing habits as it is about imparting skills. Like retailers trying to lure customers with low prices, traditional efforts to create organizational learning may be thwarted if employees are not aware of the habits they must first unlearn.
Retail analytics show that there are certain life moments when people open up their habits and are ready to change. The birth of a child is such a moment, but not if you wait until after the baby is born. The second trimester is a key moment when purchasing habits change. Retailers found existing customer data that could reveal with great accuracy when a woman was entering her second trimester, and they could target baby-related advertisements and coupons to her family.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
John Boudreau is professor and research director at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and Center for Effective Organizations, and author of Retooling HR. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite Andrew Sullivan blog posts in which he discusses Sarah Bakewell’s brilliant book, How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer, about Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, author of Essais (“Attempts”), published in 1580.
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Reflections In A Mirror
[Sullivan then quotes from Bakewell’s article that appeared in The Paris Review.]
Montaigne raised questions rather than giving answers. He wrote about whatever caught his eye: war, psychology, animals, sex, magic, diplomacy, vanity, glory, violence, hermaphroditism, self-doubt.
Most of all, he wrote about himself, and was amazed at the variety he found within…
“In taking up his pen,” wrote the great essayist William Hazlitt of Montaigne, “he did not set up for a philosopher, wit, orator, or moralist, but he became all these by merely daring to tell us whatever passed through his mind.” He wrote about things as they are, not things as they should be—and this included himself. He communicated his being on the page, as it changed from moment to moment; we can all recognize parts of ourselves in the portrait.
In America, Ralph Waldo Emerson felt this shock of familiarity the first time he picked up Montaigne in his father’s library. “It seemed to me as if I had myself written the book, in some former life, so sincerely it spoke my thought and experience,” he wrote. “No book before or since was ever so much to me as that.” From Renaissance winegrower to nineteenth-century transcendentalist seems a big leap, yet Emerson could hardly tell where he ended and Montaigne began.
These days, the Montaignean willingness to follow thoughts where they lead, and to look for communication and reflections between people, emerges in Anglophone writers from Joan Didion to Jonathan Franzen, from Annie Dillard to David Sedaris. And it flourishes most of all online, where writers reflect on their experience with more brio and experimentalism than ever before.
Bloggers might be surprised to hear that they are keeping alive a tradition created more than four centuries ago.
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Andrew Sullivan is a British-born journalist, blogger and political commentator who now lives in the United States. A self-described libertarian and “true conservative,” he is also gay, HIV-positive and a prominent same-sex marriage activist. He has written for or edited The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine and TIME. Sullivan currently writes for The Atlantic Monthly. His personal blog The Daily Dish, published via The Atlantic Monthly‘s website, is one of the most trafficked and linked political blogs on the web.
Here is a recent post (June 23, 2010) by Nicholas Carr at his blog, Rough Type. I urge you to check out his articles so that you can explore the dimensions and (especially) the nooks and the crannies of his brain, one that reminds me of a Swiss Army Knife. Please click here.
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James Sturm, the cartoonist who has taken a four-month sabbatical from the Internet, continues to write (and draw) about his experience as one of The Disconnected. Here’s a bit from the “halftime report” [click here] he recently issued, after having been offline for two months:
“Whether it’s a sports score, a book I want to get my hands on, or tuning into Fresh Air anytime of day, I can no longer search online and find immediate satisfaction. I wait for the morning paper, a trip to the library, or, when I can’t be at my radio at 3 p.m., just do without. I thought this would drive me crazy, but it hasn’t. Anticipation itself is enjoyable and perhaps even mitigates disappointing results. I don’t seem to mind as much when the Mets don’t win (often) or Dave Davies is subbing for Terry Gross and is interviewing an obscure jazz producer.
“In the two months since I’ve been unplugged, I have been experiencing more and more moments of synchronicity—coincidental events that seem to be meaningfully related. … I know this type of magical thinking is easily dismissed, but I keep having moments like this. So how do I explain it? Are meaningful connections easier to recognize when the fog of the Internet is lifted? Does it have to do with the difference between searching and waiting? Searching (which is what you do a lot of online) seems like an act of individual will. When things come to you while you’re waiting it feels more like fate. Instant gratification feels unearned. That random song, perfectly attuned to your mood, seems more profound when heard on a car radio than if you had called up the same tune via YouTube.”
Sturm is onto something deep here. The Net – and it’s not just search – does seem to encourage the willful arrangement of experience, moment by moment. As he has rediscovered, sometimes it’s best to let the world have its way with you.
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Nicholas Carr writes on the social, economic, and business implications of technology. He is the author of the 2008 Wall Street Journal bestseller The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google. His earlier book, Does IT Matter?, published in 2004, “lays out the simple truths of the economics of information technology in a lucid way, with cogent examples and clear analysis,” said the New York Times. His new book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, was recently published in 2010. Carr’s books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He has written for many periodicals, including The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, Wired, The Financial Times, Die Zeit, The Futurist, and Advertising Age, and has been a columnist for The Guardian and The Industry Standard. His much-discussed essay “Is Google Making Us Stupid?,” which appeared as the cover story of the Atlantic Monthly‘s Ideas issue in the summer of 2008, has been collected in three popular anthologies: The Best American Science and Nature Writing, The Best Technology Writing, and The Best Spiritual Writing. Carr has written a personal blog, Rough Type, since 2005. He is a member of the Encyclopedia Britannica’s editorial board of advisors and is on the steering board of the World Economic Forum’s cloud computing project. He holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College and an M.A., in English and American literature and language, from Harvard University.