Add to your reading list The Power of Habit

Bill Seyle, a founding member of sr4 Partners, encouraged us a few weeks ago to add to our reading list. Here was his encouragement:

There’s a book that came out four days ago that is a must-read. It’s “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” by Charles Duhigg. Every chapter either validates our Path with a vivid story, or provides a framework from which we could build a tool for moving people along the Path. 

There’s a lot about small beginnings, how movements work, and declaring intentions, but I think it speaks most directly to the part where we talk about “local, practical executions, baked into the routines of how work gets done, underwhelming in the details of each small beginning, but profound in their compounded effect.” You might even say that “routine" is the most significant word in the whole book. 

In particular, have a look at Chapter 8.

Duhigg makes the point that just months before Rosa Parks was arrested, two other black passengers were arrested for not giving their seats to white passengers, and no movement started. What was different about Rosa Parks? She was secretary of the local NAACP chapter, attended the Methodist church, helped oversee a youth organization at the Lutheran church near her home, spent some weekends volunteering at a shelter and others with a botanical club, and on Wednesday nights joined a group of women who knit blankets for a local hospital. She volunteered dressmaking services to poor families and did gown alterations for debutantes. When she was arrested, it triggered ”the habits of friendship” across all socioeconomic levels of Montgomery. This is Gladwell’s “strong ties” phenomenon that we mention often in our remarks. 

 Duhigg uses this story to quote “historians and sociologists” who say that movements are based on a three-part process:

  1. A movement starts because of the social habits of friendship and the strong ties between close acquaintances.
  2. It grows because of the habits of a community, and the weak ties that hold neighborhoods and clans together. 
  3. And it endures because a movement’s leaders give participants new habits that create a fresh sense of identity and a feeling of ownership.