The Habits of Successful Organizations

Habits are very powerful and shape our lives. Our brains process habits through a three-step process called a “habit loop”: (1) a cue or trigger which prompts the (2) routine, which leads to the (3) reward. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit (2014) says, “The reason the discovery of the habit loop is so important is that it reveals a basic truth: When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision-making.”

Professional sports teams and organizations such as Starbucks and Target are leveraging the habit loop by incorporating it into their training and business practices. For example, irritated customers and large crowds may overwhelm a Starbuck’s barista, pushing him or her into tears or anger. Providing employees with a routine for dealing with these triggers and identifying cues allowed them to build their willpower muscle and become less reactive. They are making decisions by creating a new routine in the habit loop.

Our lives are run on habits. It makes sense then that our organizations are also run on habits. We can change our behaviors and outcomes by identifying the habits that do not serve us well and replacing them with habits that maximize the behaviors we want.