An irate customer shows up at Target demanding to know why his young daughter was receiving coupons for baby clothes. “Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?” he challenges the store manager. The manager has no idea what was going on but apologizes, and calls to follow-up a few days later. Charles Duhigg, in The Power of Habit, finishes the story:
“I had a talk with my daughter,” [the father] said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of.” He took a deep breath. “She’s due in August.”
- Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit, p. 196
How did Target know this young woman was pregnant before her father? It turns out that their customer analytics team, by studying the shopping habits of millions of customers, had identified who was likely to be pregnant. Tracking coupon redemption and subsequent purchases allowed them to refine their algorithms until they could say, with some accuracy, which customers would appreciate coupons for cribs, strollers, and diapers. It’s a telling example of individuals' habits shaping business decisions.
Habits die hard but sometimes they're made all too easily. The Power of Habit starts with the science of habits. How they form, how they survive – and most importantly how we can break those more annoying (or unhealthy) habits. Duhigg explains these ideas in the first part of the book, and in this video applies them to his own habit - the afternoon cookie break.
Now that we’ve got a good grasp on the science of habits, in the book Duhigg turns to look at their effects in society. He examines the habit-changing success of Alcoholics Anonymous, how Alcoa Aluminium changed worker safety habits to improve productivity and profits, and, of course, how Target uses shopping habits to send out coupons that always seem to be just what you need.
The Power of Habit is a fun, but solid, read that touches on psychology, business, and personal development. Duhigg, who discussed his book with the Indigo Non-Fiction Blog, draws from peer-reviewed scholarship, so he’s on reputable ground, but he manages to explain complex concepts in eminently readable prose. The flow of the book makes sense and walks you through a journey of the human mind and habit-filled lives. And now that I’ve talked about the book (cue), why not head out to your closest Indigo, Chapters, or Coles (routine) to pick it up and reward your reading habit?