It was a New York Times article that introduced me to this book first, just prior to its hitting the stores. Being a data junkie, I was fascinated (and concerned at the same time) by how companies like Target can predict when someone’s going to have their baby and target coupons appropriately. In fact, they had to mask their accuracy with random coupons so people don’t get freaked out. After waiting for a while to get my hands on the book, I finally managed to read it through over the past couple of weeks.
It was fascinating reading, and recommended to anyone interested in the interplay of body and mind that drives our daily actions. I had written earlier about “On Being Certain”, where Dr. Robert Burton explores how the body perceives the world around it and the mind adapts its opinion about the physical world based on those observations. This book, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg is the converse of that, in some sense. It explores how the mind craves for certain cue-routine-reward loops over time, and therefore, forces the body to do what generates those rewards. With an appendix and reference list that will probably take me the rest of my life to read through were I to venture into that, the book provides great examples from psychology, marketing, civil rights movement and religion to illustrate this with examples. Interestingly enough, another recent find, “The Daily You” discusses how companies find you online and store and harvest information about every move you make online, which then goes into feeding algorithms that reinforce, or exploit your habit loops – as the unfortunate story in the book about a compulsive gambler goes on to show.
The book also provides some context and directions around how to break habit loops in our personal lives. Exactly as Paul O’Neill was able to transform Alcoa as a business through the keystone habit of worker safety, we are asked to look within and identify what those keystone habits are that drive our “vices”.
Now I know why I crave all that junk food and hate to go do any physical exercise. Lets wait for the next book that’s ten times the weight of this one, so I can expend some more energy in just carrying it around.