We see that habit is on the simplest behavioral psychology level -- stimulus - response. It consists of trigger, routine and reward. And "all" one has to do to move from a "bad" habit to a good one is understand the trigger and reward and then substitute a more desired behavior for the routine. The bulk of his 400 pages is dedicated to how to analyze and substitute for this "ALL."
The book is divided into three parts - Habits of Individuals, Habits of Successful Organizations and Habits of Societies. I'll leave it to others to draw larger lessons from the first two. I want to focus on Habits of Societies, more specifically on Duhigg's description of "How Movements Happen." By examining the power of social habits he shows how you can fill the streets with protestors who don't know one another and might be there for different reasons, YET are all moving in the same direction. Social habits are why some initiatives become world changing movements, while others fail to ignite.
At root is what Duhigg describes as a three part process:
First, a movement starts because of the social habits of friendship and the strong ties between acquaintances. This is perhaps the simplest and most universal of steps forward. Whether we are building on Seth Godin's teachings in "Tribes" or just instinctually reaching out beyond ourselves, we almost always start with friends and like-minded individuals. The problem is when the expanding circle stops with just those who think, act (and often) look like us. This isn't the beginning of a movement but rather a club or worse, for community engagement, a debating society.
Thus, the second key element. A movement grows because the habits of a community and the weak ties that hold neighborhoods and clans together. In the various communities I have worked with, this lack of pushing engagement beyond the familiar -- a homelessness coalition made up of just shelter providers; an early childhood initiative of childcare and preschool organizations and funders; a poverty reduction task team without business or education representation; and on and on -- is the central reason why "good ideas" fail to gain traction. In my earlier blog posting on the Seven Habits of Highly Successful Communities, I refer to this as habit #4 -- "keep the circle open." Unlike the narrow efforts described above, this habit recognizes that a community effort must be just that—the work of the whole community. While you can’t force anyone to participate, you absolutely cannot keep out anyone who wants in. This is an inclusive process that takes everyone’s perspectives into consideration but is not held hostage by any one idea or agenda.
Third, a movement endures because a movements leaders give participants new habits that create a fresh sense of identity and a feeling of ownership. I've written extensively about the means of going about and developing these new habits which can be developed by catalytic leaders to further community ownership. See specifically "Community Governance for Collective Impact."
Usually, only when all three parts of this process are fulfilled can a movement become self-propelling and reach a critical mass.
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