Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit
Why we do what we do in life and business
by Charles Duhigg
1 star - Oh, come on!

I wasn't even going to bother reviewing this book, but the more I thought about why I tossed it aside after less than 200 pages, the more I felt the need to vent, so here goes.

Starts off great. Mr. Duhigg discusses recent studies on brain function, how habits are formed, and how they can be modified. That was all pretty cool. Of course I could have skipped the electrodes in monkeys and rats. Heck, anybody with a dog knows about how habits setup cravings. Ever do clicker training? It works because the dog starts to associate the sound with the reward and pretty soon you don't even have to time the reward close to the click. Or how about the other night when my dog came in from outside with big slobbers hanging from his face and I thought he was sick until I remembered that usually when I leave him out in the evening I setup for "hide the liver treat" and so he had learned to associate closed door in the dark with noms.

But I digress. The real reason I couldn't finish this book was the use of "manzamples" to support theories. You know what I'm talking about. I'll give him a pass on the men with memory loss examples (although I'm pretty sure that women suffer head injuries and memory loss as well).

Then there was the Febreeze marketing campaign example which I was kind of OK with (after all, most housework is still done by women). On the other hand, being the only woman related example in the first part of the book, why did it have to be about women being gullible dorks? Could he not have found a product that had universal appeal? 

But it was the pages and pages of discussion about the Buccaneer football team that killed it for me. Yes, friends, another use of sports to drive a point home because, after all, we can all relate to sports, right? But it wasn't just sports, it was long detailed stories of guys looking at shoes and shoulders and how the plays went down, etc. To top it off, I don't even think the example really worked. By the end, it sounded more like retrofitting an outcome to support what you think is true. A more objective observer might have seen things differently.

From there, we go to the usual armed services story (men) and the Mr. White Man Turns Corporation Around story. There's also Olympic athlete Michael Phelps and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Ugh. Seriously? 

I'm telling you, I'm so fed up with crap like this. How about looking at women CEOs for a change (if you can find any) or if you want to use medical examples, go to a freakin' nursing home (where the majority of residents are women). 

Now then, Mr. Duhigg, you have a pretty impressive resume and I liked your interview on NPR, so here's a challenge for you. The next time you want to write a cool book about something that is universal, try finding a more universal population from which to draw your examples. I know, it might take some work, but being an investigative reporter and all, I'm sure you can figure it out.

Final note. I did learn a few useful things about consumer products.

  1. Unscented Frebreeze works just as well as the foo foo smelling stuff.
  2. That tingly sensation you get from toothpaste is from additives which have nothing to do with keeping your teeth clean.
  3. MacDonald's french fries are designed to melt in your mouth, thereby providing a faster absorption of all that yummy fat and grease and a bigger rush.

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