Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

This book has been on the often over-hyped best seller lists for months. I often put books on this list down, frustrated and disappointed.
Not this book.

Some readers complain many concepts in this book aren't new, my main man Willy Wonka and his crew were always trying
to teach me how to break bad habits like gluttony , envy , chewing gum or watching TV . Leaders in the time management, diet and money management sectors always tell us to "write down how we spend our time, what we eat and how we spend money every single day" - with analysis and reflection we can make change. They've been saying that for a long time and it works that's why they're famous. But maybe, it's only part of the solution.

We all have triggers in our life, negative and positive. We react to those daily triggers with responses that have become habit because the result is positive and pleasing. Adults don't change habits easily, many won't be able to at all because the triggers never go away and we need our positive pleasure at the end of the habit. This book teaches the reader how to understand the trigger, change the response to get the same reward. A tricky thing but there are dozens of story from live, business and history that vividly tell this tale of cause and effect.

I love that this book is BS-free. "Companies aren't families, they're battlefields in a civil war". Worked at a company like that once? Me too. We needs solutions, not coping mechanisms. A powerful year in my career was when I grew to hate institutional and professional arrogance and
bureaucracy for bureaucracy's sake. Hate it like murder. It's why I started reading management /leadership books and started this blog. Many people won't find their way to real work-excellence because their jobs aren't about life or death, so they aren't forced to want to do better. There's a story in this book about how silo's and bureaucracy actually killed people in a subway fire in London England. The stories told are powerful, they will stay with you and help you think about how you can make change in your own work and life.

This book continues the focus on where neuroscience and the brain meets business strategy and marketing.
I am the grocery shopping for my family - the book's tale of how we are controlled by supermarkets like rats in a capitalistic maze read like my weekly routine. It offends and impresses me how hard they are working to make me break the list I bring each week!

When the author does interviews he often talks about a case study in the book where a department store did such deep data analysis they captured part of the massive baby market because they could tell a woman was pregnant before she had told ANYONE, spouse/family included. You'll leave this story realizing how much better you can serve your clients/donors if you apply this "life cycle" observation approach.

The book's many valuable touch points on networking
include a great chapter on the power of weak ties. I know that it's tied to the power of LinkedIn which allows us to find "people like us" quickly in the business world, and time is money right?

Some great business lessons from the dozens of stories...

-how the music industry uses the power of the familiar

- how cities and the military study habits to make or stop crowds from forming community or tearing it down

- how athletes use the power of training to get instant response from their minds/bodies to succeed

- how businesses capture the power of "one small thing" that affects every part of the business to positivity influence major change

- how to harness the power of peer pressure and how to make it work for you was brilliant and again, really down to earth

It's a fabulous read that will no doubt spark your creative mind to take a lot of notes for today and turn them into business improvement and revenue tomorrow.

Would love to hear your comments on the book! 

In the mean time here's Charles talking about the book in his own words... enjoy!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Payback by Margaret Atwood

This is a book for those who are curious, about what the future has in store for us in the coming age of "austerity".

A slight deviation from the New York Times, Globe and Mail, Financial Post, Harvard Business Review best seller lists I frequent...I'd almost forgot where I started this journey! In 2008 I asked about 50 of my greatest mentors to give me one or two books that got them to where they are. They gave me a list of 200, and in less than two years I read them all. My business book addiction has been a wonderful journey but I had to follow my mentors and not the best seller lists.   

It's hard to put aside the artistic alchemist that is Atwood. She writes like Yo-yo ma works the Cello, classic but engaging, moving and educative. And her twitter mastery? Don't get me started but let's park the Canadian adoration and focus on the curiosity...the business payoff...why you should read it.

First off, I love that this book goes eons beyond the concept of monetary debt because like so many things in life, the thing....isn't the thing. 

It's much, much more.

To understand, as always you need to back. Waaay back, proto-debt. Monkey stuff. Atwood does, and it provides great context. Wonderful lessons from history, stories of Roman tax collectors and why Robin Hood was such a hero for stealing from the Sheriff...

I've been fascinated by the topic since debt shows first came on the scene this decade. I'm not proud to admit it but in the awkward phase when my good friends earned vastly different salaries we use to play poker for a common valued currency - winner slaps the losers in the face.

king at the concept of debt and the justice of payback from the view of several world religions is fascinating. Consider debt in the archetypes of truly momentous literary icons like Shakespeare's Shylock, Dicken's Scrooge and the great legend of Faust. 

Is it delightful that a modern day Scrooge considers the concepts of Environmental debt and ends up in 2012 Toronto at a dinner party? It's delicious ! Add in recurring themes of two wonderful games that have been played throughout history:

1) Try and Collect

2) Kill the Creditors

and you have a read that is part history, part f
iction, part reflection and you have the kind of stuff that stuff business books will never be able to use to engage your brain....if business books are the meat and potatoes of brain food, this is the molecular-gastronomic-amuse-bouche: it's the deconstruction of something important and powerful that will influence your life and work.

If business was smart enough to stop and think. 
This is what it would dream.

Looking for a summer read/ audio listen? You just found it.

Enjoy this great interview on the book,