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Book Review: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Author and journalist Charles Duhigg explores the power of habits--including how savvy marketers use them to activate consumer spending.

Inc.

The book: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg; Random House.

The big idea: Habits can be our making or our undoing. Either way, they are powerful. Canny marketers use cues to activate consumer spending habits, and wise leaders create strong institutional habits.

The backstory: New York Times journalist Duhigg has won numerous awards for his reporting.

Your business on autopilot: Duhigg reminds us that business processes and routines are nothing more than habits practiced on an organization-wide scale. If you can get your kids to brush their teeth every night, you can get your employees to provide great customer service.

If you read nothing else: Chapter Four recounts Paul O'Neill's turnaround of aluminum company Alcoa. Duhigg uses the example to illustrate how improving a single habit-;practicing safety, in Alcoa's case-;ripples out to improve an entire organization. If all companies followed Starbucks's lead and trained employees in self-discipline, as described in Chapter Five, customer service and productivity would soar.

Rigor rating: 9 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great). Duhigg interviewed more than 300 scientists and executives and consulted many academic studies. Sixty pages of concluding notes offer a window into the sausage-making process, complete with responses to fact-checking queries.

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Last updated: Feb 28, 2012

LEIGH BUCHANAN | Staff Writer | Editor-at-large, Inc. Magazine

Leigh Buchanan is an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture.




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