The Power of Habit

July 5, 2012


If you’re looking for an interesting book to read this summer, we recommend The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. As the title suggests, it’s an exploration of why people behave as they do in both their personal and professional lives. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s also a handbook for those who recognize negative or non-productive habits and would like to find an effective way to change them.

The book focuses on a number of topics, including the incidence and science of habits; why we have them and how they are processed in our brains. It also details how businesses have long-studied the ways that people are apt to behave and have used those conclusions to their advantage. Duhigg offers many fascinating insights, grocery stores position produce at the front of the store because they know that people will balance those purchases with less nutritious choices as they continue to shop, for example. He goes on to describe how corporations routinely leverage results of studies of expected behavior, from Target, to Alcoa, to the makers of Febreze.

Duhigg maintains that while habits can’t be eliminated, the cues and rewards that prompt them can be neutralized. He also includes an appendix that offers a step-by-step guide to identifying and eliminating patterned behavior.

Written in a clear, concise style and filled with information that’s informative and compelling, we suggest adding the book to your summer pile. We don’t think you’ll regret that you did!


Plays Nicely With Others

August 4, 2011

                                 
It’s not a revelation to anyone that good people skills are a critical element of success in an office environment. But ever wonder why some people are easier to work with than others?

We have, too.  That’s why we’re reading People Styles at Work and Beyond by Robert Bolton, an analysis of the dynamics of social interactions and ways to improve them.

We think you might find it as interesting as we have.

The book includes tips that enable the reader to identify how his / her own behavior is affecting relationships with co-workers, as well as methods that one can use to interpret body language and other cues that can potentially improve interaction with others.

The author posits that there are essentially four different “people styles” and then sets out to detail how best to identify and relate to each of them. He stresses the importance of focusing on similarities rather than differences and the necessity of fostering understanding to minimize emotional reactions.

Filled with practical information that’s readily applied, we’re finding the book a worthwhile read. Let us know if you do, too!


All Work and a Bit of Play

April 28, 2011

                                                           

If you subscribe to the adage that all work and no play is never a good thing, you might agree that Cubicle Warfare: 101 Office Traps and Pranks by John Austin is the ultimate office survival guide.
 
The author, a former toy developer, has created a book that’s packed full of ideas for any practical joker. Sure, you could waste time  trying to beat your personal record for most consecutive Free Cell wins but why do that when you can have a bit of fun at a co-worker’s expense instead?   
                                      

Pranks and traps are sorted by difficulty and include illustrations to facilitate proper setup and implementation. One of our favorites involves leaving an overturned paper cup, front and center, on a co-worker’s desk each morning. The co-worker is made to remove it and wonder why someone is routinely leaving it there. Until the day that it’s not empty, that is.

Or, alternatively, if you’d like to orchestrate something a little more complicated, how about making an entire office disappear:
                                             

                                    
We liked it, too.  Happy reading — and pranking!


Office Politics Primer

January 13, 2011

                                                       
Ever wonder how to tactfully tell a co-worker that her perfume is wreaking havoc on your sinuses and / or your sanity?

That and many other questions are posed  in Franke James’ award-winning Dear Office Politics – The Game That Everyone Plays, a book that challenges its readers to find acceptable resolutions to a variety of  problems that can arise in any office setting. You may not want to participate in office politics but part of the point is that we all do, voluntarily or because circumstances have propelled us there.

The book is divided into two sections;  a series of dilemmas that were submitted to the author’s website, followed by potential solutions offered by various professional advisors against which a reader can compare responses.  Problems range from petty annoyances to more serious issues such as attempts to discredit a co-worker and other self-promoting behavior.

The primary purpose of the book is to facilitate a role-playing game which prompts participants to discuss reactions to each scenario, a team-building exercise that can also encourage respect for Human Resources and the problem-resolution process.  But it’s not necessary to read the book along with a group. The author’s wit and cleverly rendered illustrations make for an  interesting and provocative experience when reading alone as well.

We’re enjoying Dear Politics.  It’s packed with good advice that’s presented in an engaging way.  Let us know if  you’ve read it, too!


We’re Reading: The Shallows

August 11, 2010

                                                                     

Remember the vintage ad campaign that warned against substance abuse with the slogan, “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs?”  You won’t find any images of eggs within the pages of Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains but you may come away from the experience wondering what other transformation analogies might apply.  Not fried exactly but, according to Carr, perhaps still somewhat different.

The basic premise of the book is that the Internet is changing the way that we think, conditioning our brains to focus in very short increments before being compelled to move on to the next topic or activity. Much as one does when traveling about the web, checking e-mail, updating a status on a social networking site, or perusing the latest news, all in quick succession. Carr likens it to reading a book while doing a crossword puzzle, something that I’ve actually done recently if one counts Words with Friends.

No doubt one of the reasons I find this book so fascinating.

Carr suggests that the Internet is a medium that accommodates, and even  encourages, self-interruption, a practice that eventually conspires to lessen the amount of time that is spent focusing on any one task. Instead, information is gleaned in small increments over very short periods of time.  That pattern remains long after one is no longer on-line. See above re: reading a book and doing a crossword puzzle.

Years ago, some educators questioned the impact of bombarding toddlers with short bursts of information that was delivered in a highly entertaining way, proposing that it was conditioning them to expect, and perhaps even require, those same conditions when they encountered a conventional classroom. According to The Shallows, that same “plastic” quality applies to the adult brain.  It can readily adapt to a new mode of thinking, ultimately resisting long, contemplative, or creative tasks.

It’s a provocative theory and one that we think any Internet user might enjoy exploring.  In the interim, we’ve kept this entry short in case you’re feeling compelled to stop reading and check your e-mail or surf on over to the Anderson Interiors site. Or, you know, make that Words with Friends move. It could be your turn!

Have you read this book? Tell us what you think!


The Watercooler Effect

May 18, 2010

                                                                            
It happens in every work setting.  Information that’s not always truthful or accurate is passed along from person to person, encouraging speculation and additional renditions of the “facts.”  But what’s the essential nature of those conversations and why do they occur? Those and many other questions are answered by author Nicholas DiFonzo, Ph.D. in his book, The Watercooler Effect, a compelling exploration of rumors and gossip, and why people are motivated to listen to, believe, and participate in disseminating them.

One of the most compelling aspects of the book is the distinction that’s made between  rumors and gossip and why each are created. Interestingly, rumors can actually have value, providing explanations in times of fear or uncertainty. In addition, they can serve as a useful tool for the transmission of information that can’t be traced back to a specific source.  Conversely, gossip essentially, if any, redeeming factors and is more apt to be damaging in the final analysis.

DiFonzo explains why some information is created and travels from person to person without verification or regard to the source. A prime example is viral e-mails that warn of everything from physical danger and illnesses to impending doom from any number of directions.  The recipient may be apt to accept the content as fact without verifying the source or any of the assertions that have been made, sending it along to the people in his or her address book and continuing the chain. The underlying goal is to be helpful by providing details that can keep one safe, healthy, or reduce risk and uncertainty.

 If you have an interest in informal communication and the dynamics and characteristics of information that’s passed from person to person, I recommend this book. It’s entertaining and provocative and could be the next topic of conversation around the watercooler at your office!

 


Corporate Blogging: The Basics

February 3, 2010

                          
The popularity of corporate blogging has increased multi-fold in recent years,  making it a primary method of organizational communication. Consistent with that, a number of how-to primers have been penned and released, offering every manner of advice to those who are about to enter the blogosphere. We’re reading The Corporate Blogging Book by Debbie Weil, an introduction to the basic elements of blogging and accompanying details about  those who do it.

The book begins with a chapter devoted to the twenty most frequently asked questions about blogging,  including an explanation of what it is and how it evolved. Subsequent chapters focus on a variety of topics, including an overview of organizations that generate blogs, the fears associated with affording the stamp of corporate approval, and the ROI or, in this case, the return on blogging that’s reasonable to anticipate.

Weil offers a fair amount of useful information for anyone who is considering implementation of a blog as part of an overall marketing strategy.  We’d also recommend Blogging For Dummies by Susannah Gardner and Shane Birley, another resource that includes detailed tips on selecting topics, comparisons of blogging software, and other effective blogging guidance that we found helpful.

Happy reading — and blogging!