Make a change, create a habit
Throughout this semester I have almost constantly thought of ways to improve the culture and actions of our company. During this time, I have also been slowly processing “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg which I find to be an extremely fascinating and comprehensive book. The more so-called obstacles our team has encountered, the more I have concluded that every problem or solution is, or at least can be based, on habits.
The companies founded in Proakatemia are not quite like many other companies. When you are amid almost twenty (supposedly) entrepreneur-minded people with no hierarchy and scarce boundaries, that’s a messy place. The groups have enormous potential and the challenge lies within building the organization structure. In the first months, we encountered many situations where after multiple hours of continuous efforts we couldn’t open the knot which was formed by our divergent opinions. Especially at that point we had no room of compromises because we tried to be unanimous with our decisions, luckily, we have sort of past that point. Now, what caused us not to move forward? We lacked relevant culture, boundaries, principles or whatever one wish to call it. In the core of the problem lies the lack of habits.
Why are habits important?
Habits help the brain to use less effort due to the repetitive actions one has done in the past. Once the brain senses a certain ‘cue’ it already knows what to do next quite like any other type of learning. Learning to drive for example takes a lot of effort at first but when you have driven multiple times, complexity fades away. Not only does the task become easier to complete, completion time decreases too. Habits are not only the actions themselves, what you get from completing a certain action plays a role too.
How to form a habit?
Whether you are trying to break a “bad habit” or form a new habit should you know the framework of a habit loop.
- Identify the routine
- Experiment with rewards
- Isolate the cue
- Have a plan
Identify the routine
First step is to identify the routine which means writing down every part of the routine that is involved in your “bad habit”. In case of forming a new habit, you’ll have the freedom to create your own routine.
Experiment with rewards
“Reward” here means what you get out of a particular action, for example reward in smoking might be relaxation caused by nicotine, getting out of the office or socializing. Reward is what drives the habit which makes it absolutely mandatory to find out what the reward is. By experimenting with rewards Duhigg means trying out every possible reward one by one to really find the habit driving reward. Once again if you are forming a habit you can decide a reward which should be something that really motivates you.
Isolate the cue
After figuring out the routine and the reward it is time to find out the “cue”, which triggers the habit. Finding the cue can be difficult due to too much information but Duhigg serves a tool for it, consisting of five questions.
- Emotional state
- Other people
- Immediately preceding action
To find out the cue just answer these questions when the urge hits, do it as many times as it takes. For example, if you have answered the questions on three different days and all of the answers include nearly the same time, conclusion would be that a certain time triggers the habit. If you are trying to form a habit, forming cues is also possible. They take repetitions to form but in the simplest form it’s just repeating a certain action when “X happens”.
Have a plan
No matter if you are trying to change a habit or form a new one, after completing rest of the habit framework, make a plan and try to stick to it. Some habits take longer to change or form but this framework works as great tool to start with.
Habits are a way for our brain to work efficiently without using much energy. Habits can be used in any area of life where there is a possibility of creating a routine. When trying to cultivate new habits in your personal life, follow the aforesaid framework, be persistent and give it time. When trying to cultivate a culture in a company or a group, create habits which guide the actions. In companies, normal way to cultivate a culture is determination of company’s core values. When core values are thoroughly thought and every employee has a habit of following them, the culture is formed in no time.