Who Moved My Couch?!?

Are Decisions or Habits Running Your Business?

Yesterday, I was early to a meeting and grabbed a seat in the lobby of my client’s swanky downtown San Francisco office building.  As I was checking email, I overheard a seemingly bizarre exchange.

The Security Guard greeted ‘Jane’ and asked how her day was going.  In a completely frazzled tone, Jane replied, “Horribly.  You moved my couch.” (Um, come again?!?)  Jane went onto explain that she sat in the same spot at lunch every day.  Since they moved ‘her’ couch, her life has been a mess.

It’s horrible, but I admit I was totally amused.  Then, I started to think about her predicament and wondered – could rearranging furniture really ‘ruin’ someone’s day?

Power of Habit

Beyond brushing my teeth, I never gave habits much thought. Then, I came across a book that changed how I looked at the world.  Charles Duhigg, an award-winning investigative reporter for the New York Times, wrote a fantastic book called “The Power of Habit.” Duhigg researched the science of habit formation and its applications to individuals, companies and societies.

Habits are the brain’s way of promoting efficiency.  (Think of it as evolutionary power save for the brain.)  As Duhigg explains, a habit is a decision you made at one point, stopped making, but continue acting on without thought.

There’s a reason Duhigg’s book topped the New York Times Best Seller List.  It’s like the little blue pill in the movie “The Matrix.”  You’ll never look at the world and your business the same way.

Business on Autopilot

Duke University Research estimates that nearly half of what we do every day driven by habits – meaning our actions are essentially without thought.

Consider the impact of this on your business.  Ever heard something like – “That’s just what we do around here”?  (That’s a habit!)  Habits are manifested in your business’ policies, procedures and your culture.  Moreover, they account for half of the activity at any given time in your company.

And they are far more powerful than most people realize.  Billions of dollars have been made, social movements were sparked and Olympic medals were won – on habits.

A Woman Interrupted

Jane had a habit of sitting on the couch every day at lunch.  When her habit routine was interrupted, it quite literally threw her brain out of its loop.   While it’s a bit of an extreme example, Jane’s predicament demonstrates how habits can be the making or breaking of a day, a week or even a company.

Next time you’re getting your morning coffee at the office, ask yourself – are you proactively leveraging habits in your business to drive success or are you letting habits run the show?


How are you building habits of success in your business?

2 thoughts on “Who Moved My Couch?!?

  1. I am over the training unit for my medium-sized (65 employees) office. I used the same ideas regarding habit to structure case notes in a particular order. This decreases fatigue during case review and increases productivity by helping workers stay engaged to the facts at hand. Having this type of consistency also makes transitions easier during case reassignments from collector to collector since everyone is speaking the same “language”. This is a subtle difference, but it increases productivity and reduces burnout with no additional effort.

    1. Elaine, You are spot on with building habits around case notes. Habits are subtle, but have noticable impact on performance. Great insight! Thank you for sharing!!

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