Till now we have thought that our brain cannot change due to 3 reasons: most of patients had not recovered from brain injury, we had no opportunity of monitoring our brain activity, and we considered our brain as computers. Computers do not change; they only get older. Thinking, learning and acting can switch on and switch off genes, changing the anatomy of the brain. Brain plasticity is both advantage and challenge (1).
Human habits form as our brain is looking for ways to reduce efforts. The instinct of reducing efforts is within us. If we had no habits, our brain would explode from overuse and overheat. Habits are not destiny. They can be ignored, created and changed. When habit is created, brain stops participating in decision making. Efforts are transferred to other, new tasks. Until we consciously fight the old habit, we do not create new habit. The old habit prevails.
Habits do not disappear. We can easily revive the old habit. We have no need to repeatedly learn of driving a car after vacation. Brain does not separate good habits from bad habits. Most of the habits are unconscious. We have no idea where they come from. When there is a motivator, our brain becomes more active. Importance of the reward is enormous in creating new habits. Habit starts with cue and finishes with the reward. Habit is created when there is a desire. Desire is a driving force of the habit. Our brain needs to start striving for the reward (2).
Successful individuals differ from unsuccessful by their habits. Discipline, willpower, curiosity, activeness, learning, positivity and optimism, self-confidence, having goals and planning are the habits of successful people.
Successful organizations are different from unsuccessful organizations by their habits too. I outline four areas of organizational habits: (i) employee relations (how management and employees treat and communicate with each other), (ii) relations with clients (attitude, behavior), (iii) company’s relations to outer world (change, knowledge, etc.), and (iv) work itself (time, quality, etc.).
Existing organizational habits do not disappear itself. New employees adapt to dominating organizational behavior. Organizational habits can be identified with the team of employees by asking: (i) what are the positive habits of our organization, they make our company stronger; (ii) what are the negative habits of our organization – they weaken our organization, they do not make us a stronger company.
Employees eagerly and easily identify which habits sink the company and which are worth to cherish. When choosing a habit to be change, it is important to concentrate just on one habit and keep to 5 principle rule saying that change has to be: (i) simple (easy to understand), (ii) genuine (no imitation), (iii) everyone changes his/her behavior, (iv) everyone is involved in selecting a habit to eliminate, and (v) foreseeable change is liked by everyone.
In order the new habit takes root in the organization, company must take additional steps: place reminders (triggers) of the new habit in the workplace, supervisor has to demonstrate the desirable behavior her/himself, no tolerance for the old, undesirable behavior (company has to be prepared to pay the price), reward the desired behavior and monitor changes on the agreed milestones.
Dr. Alisa Miniotaite, Leadership and management expert, Founder of ALISA MANAGEMENT LABORATORY, International certified ICC coaching trainer for Baltic countries.
1. Doidge, Norman (2007). The Brain that Changes Itself. Penguin Books, London
2. Duhigg, Charles (2012). The Power of Habit. Random House Books, London