12 June 2012
Habit is an important trait if you aspire to be productive. I've learned this in spades on the Drive for Innovation. A project with so many moving parts and people demands it.
But it turns out that while habit may be good for productivity, it may not be so good for innovation. Why? Because you've locked yourself into a certain rhythm. Breaking out of that rhythm is difficult because we are creatures of habit.
Just do it
I thought about this recently after coming back to San Francisco for a road-trip breather. I've gained weight on this drive, and that's bugging me. My habit is to arise early in the morning, have coffee and dive into my various information sources to start the day. I defer exercise until day's end, and often get too busy or tired to get out and just do it.
What if I change that habit and instead simply stumble out of bed, put my running shoes on and stagger down the street for a half hour or so? Change the routine and my body may react in a way that aids the weight-loss process.
That's more or less the concept behind a new post from Tim Kastelle that looks at the history of hand washing and the battle against bacteria and disease.
"Hand washing was resisted for many reasons. One is that it suggests that doctors and nurses are the cause of infections and harm – and this doesn’t fit with how they view their jobs at all. Another is that it takes time, and time is often in extremely short supply in hospitals. A third is that it just seemed too simple. Medicine is complex, it requires years of training to practice effectively, and significant expertise to practice well. It’s built for complexity, not simplicity."
If your organization runs efficiently but has a hard time with innovation it could be you need to look at your internal habits. Maybe that Monday 8 a.m. meeting during which everyone runs through the agenda for the week becomes a Monday-morning walk around the tech park.
You get the idea.
A possible framework
Charles Duhigg, who wrote the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, offers a handy outline of how you might begin to attack the problem in four steps. His framework is simple, but the online PDF offers much more helpful detail:
• Identify the routine
• Experiment with rewards
• Isolate the cue
• Have a plan
What's your situation? Do you have internal challenges in getting co-workers or direct reports to change behavior?
Have you had successes in this regard?
I'd love to hear about them!