How do we keep getting better at what we do? One way is to keep a commitment to the task, the discipline, of life-long learning. And so we keep learning, and then try to put this learning into practice.
To quote Peter Drucker, we all need to cultivate and maintain the “habit of continuous learning.”
We can help you with this “keep learning” task with our monthly book synopsis event. Now in our 15th year of monthly gatherings, we have a large group of life-long learners at the First Friday Book Synopsis. This morning, we presented synopses of Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer, and Take the Stairs by Rory Vaden.
Next month, on June 1, I will present my synopses of The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (a terrific and important book), and Karl Krayer will present his synopis of All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.
Corporate culture; personal and corporate habits. Pretty good issues to focus on.
If you are in the DFW area, come join us for the June 1 First Friday Book Synopsis. Great conversations, wonderful food, and useful content – all fast-paced, in just over an hour. Hope you can join us. (You will be able to register soon from this web site).
“People listen to Top 40 because they want to hear their favorite songs or songs that sound like their favorite songs. When something different comes on, they’re offended. They don’t want anything unfamiliar.”
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
Here’s a tidbit from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. The issue is how a radio station introduces a new song by an unknown artist. He describes in detail the attempt to make a big hit out of a song called “Hey Ya!” by OutKast. (My apology – I don’t know this song. You can watch the music video of it here).” The research that music folks do that can practically guarantee when a song will be a hit was clear – this song was going to be a monster hit. But, when stations would play it, people would switch stations during the song. Not a good sign!
Here’s what they discovered: they found out that even a sure-fire monster hit, when it is new, has to be sandwiched between two “familiar” songs, in order to keep people from switching stations. And they have to follow this practice until listeners decide that this new song now sounded “familiar.” Fascinating.
So, this is what they did: they played a Celine Dion song, and then immediately followed with Hey Ya!, and then immediately after, they played another familiar song by another familiar artist. The key word in all of this is “familiar.” Interestingly, people were “sick of” Celine Dion, but they would not change the station, because she sounded “familiar.” From Duhigg:
“There were songs that listeners said they actively disliked, but were sticky nonetheless… Male listeners said they hated Celine Dion and couldn’t stand her songs. But whenever a Dion tune came on the radio, they stayed tuned in. Within the Los Angeles market, stations that regularly played Dion at the end of each hour – when the number of listeners was measured – could reliably boost their audience by as much as 3 percent, a huge figure in the radio world. Male listeners may have thought they disliked Dion, but when her songs played, they stayed glued.”
So I was sitting in church yesterday, Easter Sunday, and we were singing the Wesley hymn Christ The Lord is Risen Today. And, at the conclusion of the service, the choir sang the Hallelujah Chorus. Both songs were written centuries ago. Wesley’s hymn was first published in 1739, and it was based on a fourteenth century version of a Latin hymn. Handel wrote the Messiah in 1741. So, these are not exactly examples of new, modern sacred music.
It was wonderful – and wonderfully familiar.
I had just finished reading the Duhigg book, and thought about this experience, comparing it to the “Hey Ya!” challenge. The last thing I want on Easter Sunday is some new, modern, never-heard-before song. I want the familiar.
So, what do we do with all this? This may explain why introducing and accepting change is so hard. People want the familiar. Even the “familiar” that they no longer “want,” that they are “tired of,” they still want it because it feels “familiar.”
So, if you are proposing a change at your work, asking people to buy in to something they have not ever experienced, look for ways to either make if feel familiar, or, sandwich it in between other actions that are familiar.
No wonder change is so hard…
But, Part 2 – “On the Other Hand”:
But… we live in an era when change has to be the name of the game. So, how do we help people become more comfortable with the unfamiliar?
There are places where we do not want the familiar. If we go to the annual auto show, we want the new and different to be on display. And we are looking for the “cool” factor, the new and different and unfamiliar – the “I can’t wait to try that” factor. Same with an electronics show. We want to see the latest new gadgets and we look for those rare breakthroughs that will change our lives for the better.
“It’s like a middle-school science fair. You see hundreds of posters from every conceivable field. The guys doing nanotechnology are talking to the guys making glue.”
Such events are “defined as” looking for the new – looking for the next, new, new change. Maybe we need more of these, to get our change muscles the exercise they need, so that we aren’t offended with, and driven away by, the unfamiliar.
I am presenting two new business books to different groups this week. One, What Matters Now by Gary Hamel, at the First Friday Book Synopsis. The other, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, to a private client (I will present it this summer at the First Friday Book Synopsis). These books agree in a critical observation. Here’s Duhigg’s description:
There are no organizations without institutional habits. There are only places where they are deliberately designed, and places where they are created without forethought, so they often grow from rivalries or fear.
Hamel spends many pages describing such organizational habits, as they now exist. And, to summarize it from his perspective, the habit of most organizations is to protect the past more than to forge a new future. Here’s just one quote of many:
Modern organizations weren’t designed to be adaptable; they were designed to be disciplined and efficient.
In other words, habits of efficiency rather than habits that lead to innovation. In other words, when they got good, they wanted to stay good at what they got good at. And, in doing so, they let the new, new thing slip right on past them, and thus, leave them behind.
So, here’s the question for us all:
What habits are we building to be successful today and tomorrow?
Because, this much is certain to me after reading Duhigg’s book – success comes through the habits we practice, both personally, and organizationally (and even societally).