A Book That Will Improve Your Life, Business and Community

Lovers of knowledge and wisdom periodically get an opportunity to read a book that delivers particularly valuable insights.

Such a well-written book is “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” by Charles Duhigg.

Mr. Duhigg uses his talents as a story teller to explain case studies and fascinating research into habits.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessWritten in 2012, he adroitly explains how our habits affect us; and how we can change our habits for success in our lives, businesses and communities.

“A habit is a behavior that starts as a choice, and then nearly becomes a nearly unconscious pattern,” writes Mr. Duhigg, who is also a reporter for The New York Times. He explains how some people have productive habits that lead to positive results.

“Every habit – no matter how simple or complex – has the same structure, a ‘habit loop’,” he explains. “There is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode. Then there is routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional behavior.”

He says we then experience the resulting “reward.”

He skillfully shows if we understand how habit loops work, we can go about the business of changing them for the better.

This means even seemingly insignificant “keystone habits” make a difference for success or failure in a multitude of ways.

“When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they often start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives,” Mr. Duhigg writes.

“Typically, people who exercise start eating better and getting to work earlier. They smoke less, and show more patience,” he adds.

His book provides such informative principles that are illustrated in case studies, such as:

  • Why a habit of “grit” is more important than any other attribute
  • Why dental hygiene was so problematic early in World War I, it was a national security risk – but how Pepsodent’s advertising agent was a catalyst for solving the problem
  • How Starbucks profits by innovating in human resources
  • Why Alcoholics Anonymous is so successful in helping people recover from alcoholism
  • How Target as a retailer knows how to influence consumer spending

Predictive analytics

“At Target, for instance, executives build sophisticated computer programs to analyze shoppers’ habits, and then use that information to figure out what they want to buy,” he explains. “If you use your Target credit card to purchase a box of Popsicles once a week, usually around 6:30 p.m. on a weekday, and mega-sized trash bags every July and October, Target will determine that you have kids at home, tend to shop for groceries on your way back from work, and have a house with a lawn.

“It will look at your other shopping patterns, and notice that you sometimes buy cereal, but never purchase milk – which means that you must be buying it somewhere else,” he writes. “So Target will mail you coupons for 2% milk, as well as for chocolate sprinkles, school supplies, lawn furniture, rakes, and – since it’s likely you’ll want to relax after a long day at work – beer.”

In other words, Target will sense what you want to purchase and take steps to persuade you to buy more products. Target isn’t alone. All big companies use such sophistication to get you to buy products. That’s interesting to people who aren’t familiar with such concepts in this digital age.

Moreover, it’s the comprehensive explanations of habits and how others have transformed themselves that provide hope to people who are struggling to succeed. Just to know it’s possible to develop the right habits for a makeover makes this book noteworthy.

In addition, nonprofits, businesses, and communities falter because of destructive choices and habits of people. They unknowingly give away their power. This book about the power of habit shows how to get it back.

Here’s a Biz Coach tip of the cap to Mr. Duhigg. His book is an excellent resource for you, your employees, family and friends.

The 371-page book is available here.

From the Coach’s Corner, as a student of human nature, I concur with Mr. Duhigg’s insights. What he writes is true. In 1992, I noticed very quickly after I bought a marketing firm how the employee behavior of my new clients could make or break their employers’ advertising campaigns.

It motivated me to expand my services to include proprietary human resources training and other programs. By altering employee habits via training programs to solve the issues impeding the control of costs and quality, the marketing was successful.

Here are resource links:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.



Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Must Read: ‘The Book…on Business from A to Z’

A business book makes a bold promise. It’s entitled, “The Book…on Business from A to Z: The 260 Most Important Answers You Need to Know.”

Is this an accurate title? Yes. It’s an authoritative book published in 2012 packed with valuable explanations by a bevy of expert practitioners in 26 chapter topics – important issues that perplex businesspeople. What’s more, its 286 pages in paperback are easy-to-understand.

For example, one of the topics is innovation – a major dilemma for businesses in the new economy. Actually, competitiveness has long been a big quandary. Innovation uncertainties cause insomnia for a lot of businesspeople.

Indeed, noted poet T.S. Eliot once wrote: “Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.”

So if you’re delaying innovation because of uncertainty, the tone of the book’s chapter on innovation will put you at-ease.

“Tip: Relax. There are no right answers. There are only best guesses,” writes one of the authors, Ted Whetstone. Mr. Whetstone is president of breakthruthink (www.breakthruthink.com), a consulting firm in Santa Monica, Calif.

But act you must.

“While innovation stresses something new or discovered (like the idea of the first light bulb), innovation tends to build off that discovery, bring it to market, and give it value, because it means something to the world,” he explains.

He acknowledges that not all ideas work, but he provides readers with what I’d call ample optimistic-empowerment.

“Tip: Trust your gut. But also test your ideas. Rarely is innovation successful on the first attempt,” explains Mr. Whetstone.

Innovation is critical for success

“The enterprise that does not innovate ages and declines,” he quotes a warning by Dr. Peter Drucker. “And in a period of rapid change such as the present, the decline will be fast.”

Mr. Whetstone explains four types of innovation – disruptive, product, process and market.

For example, his thought on disruptive innovation:

“This generally involves the introduction of a new technology or process that the existing market didn’t expect and so it shifts accordingly, sometimes radically,” he writes. “The iPhone, for example, generated disruptive change in the telephone (smartphone) market.”

He discusses “the best innovation tools and techniques,” including these four:

  • Using creative brainstorming techniques to elicit ideas
  • Using filtering and selection techniques to combine or cull them
  • Prototyping best concepts
  • Testing the market, iterating and rolling out

“The key to successfully generating ideas is to remove thought obstacles,” advises Mr. Whetstone. “This is best accomplished by assigning one person to facilitate a group.

“The purpose is to ensure the free flow and capture of ideas without stopping to evaluate,” he explains. “Later you can categorize, filter, and analyze but never upfront.”

That’s a sagacious insight. Typically, dysfunctional organizations have stakeholders who insist on filtering ideas prematurely. Those organizations are unsuccessful.

Mr. Whetstone also provides bulleted lists on how to capture and filter ideas for innovation. They are designed to help you be detached and objective in your deliberations.

Among his other recommendations, perhaps most importantly, he explains how to stimulate and maintain an innovation culture. It’s important to sustain an innovative culture for the long-term. Ask the folks at Apple.

Cash flow

No business will succeed without positive cash flow.

“Cash coming in from sales or collection of accounts receivable are typically the largest and important elements of incoming cash,” acknowledges Gene Siciliano in his chapter on cash flow. Mr. Siciliano (www.genesiciliano.com) is president at Western Management Associates in Los Angeles. He also authored the best-selling book, “Finance for Non-Financial Managers.”

In all, Mr. Siciliano answers 10 questions about cash flow.

In answer to the question, “What should you expect to experience in collecting cash from a mix of credit customers that includes both large and small businesses,” he gives eight scenario answers to help you predict patterns of payment behavior.

“A large customer will typically either pay strictly on time or very late,” he explains in an example of payment behavior. “They will pay strictly on time if they are highly automated and have adopted the policy that it’s more efficient to pay on a machine-defined schedule.”

If you have temporary cash shortage, Mr. Siciliano suggests you analyze the reasons. He suggests you think about four questions:

  • Is the cash shortage really temporary or does this happen with regularity?
  • What could you have done to avoid this?
  • Do you really need to spend cash for non-essential items today?
  • Are you clear about the difference between what you need and what you want?

What follows is well worth reading – several of his ideas to solve the short-term cash-flow headache.

In addition to innovation and cash flow, the book covers these salient topics:

Accounting, branding, debt, equity, forecasting and budgeting, generational issues, human resources, jurisprudence, knowledge management, leadership, marketing, networking, operations, process improvement, quality, risk, strategy, turnaround, underperformance issues, valuation, when to negotiate vs. mediate, X-ray your organization, yield and Z-score.

Available at Amazon.com, the book is compiled and edited by Daniel Feiman. As a resource, it’s a good investment for budding entrepreneurs and established businesspersons, alike.

From the Coach’s Corner, if you’re a small business owner, here’s a three-part series to consider:

10 Scholarly Solutions for Selling More Products — Part one of a three-part series: How to grow your small business. Small business owners face more predators than ever, which makes decision-making about growth seem very challenging.

Marketing Essentials on a Shoestring Budget — Part two of a three-part series: How to grow your small business. Why do businesses sometimes falter?

Management and HR for Higher Performance — Part three: How to grow your small business. In analyzing the growth rates of small businesses – every great entrepreneur has one salient quality – the ability to be an effective manager.

“Knowledge is the food of the soul.”



Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.