My Takeaways from The Power of Habit – Here’s One Hint: Make it “Easy and Convenient”

Power of HabitRecently, I presented my synopsis of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, the terrific book by Charles Duhigg. to an executive team for a large organization.  This is a great book for thinking about individual habits, and for thinking about organizational habits. One observation from a participant was this:  thinking about “organizational habits” seems more tangible (more “implementable” – my word) than thinking about “organizational culture.”

In my introduction section, before we tackled my synopsis handout, I shared a few thoughts just to get the “juices flowing…”  Here are a few of the highlights of that introduction:


Good habits require “Ease and Convenience.”  The easier it is to practice your good habit, the more likely you will be to continue that habit.  So, I put this up on a slide:

(Where do you keep your floss?–
best answer:

The idea is:
It is a good habit to floss your teeth every day.
The easier, the more convenient it is, the more likely you will be to actually floss.  So, keep your floss everywhere!  (At your computer; in your car; by your bed; in your bathroom; by your remote control in your TV room…  make sure you have floss basically in your line of sight everywhere you look…)  Then, it is truly easy, and convenient, and you will more likely remember to floss.

And, here were my four points to close the “introduction” section:

Four Steps…

Step #1 – Build good habits…
Step #2 – Reinforce those good habits…
Step #3 – Get rid of bad habits…
Step #4 – Really!  — Get rid of them!

The book really does provide helpful counsel for succeeding at all four of these.

And then, as I began my synopsis of the book, I told the story of the focus on safety at Alcoa, brought so successfully to Alcoa by CEO Paul O’Neill – a great example of good organizational habits. (You can read this story in detail, excerpted from the book, at this link).

I ended my presentation with my takeaways from the book:

• Some takeaways

1)  Habits own you (and own an organization)
2)  Habits will not change on their own
3)  You cannot change a habit easily
4)  Willpower can be exhausting
5)  But, the will power muscle can be developed
6)  You need a lot of help: like, peer pressure; checklists; written goals
7)  You need to practice advanced decision making
8)  If you succeed, the “bad habit” still lurks (maybe forever)
9)  And, people do better when they (feel like they) have some level of control…
10)  A crisis can play a really useful role in helping you (or an organization) change from a bad habit to a good 
habit. Take advantage of a crisis!

This is a terrific book to help you talk about a bunch of issues: work ethic; organizational culture; alignment…  the list is long.  I recommend it strongly for a session with your executive team for your organization.


Along with my colleague at the First Friday Book Synopsis, Karl Krayer, I have been leading such sessions for 16 years.  A book synopsis/briefing is a terrific way to jumpstart one of those “crucial conversations” so critical to the health of an organization.  Contact me about conducting such a session in your organization.


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