Edmonton Chapter

Book Club - The Power of Habit

CSSEYEG: Book Club - Power of Habit

“The Power of Habit”

For our second book, the CSSE Book Club had the pleasure of reading “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. The book itself is well written, easy-to-follow, and full of great examples and case studies. The book club meeting was even better. We discussed the book, safety, and shared our own stories of seeing the power of habit in action.

--- More below from Chris Barton and John Wettstein

For those who may have been unable to read the book or attend the meeting this time around, for a great summary of the book I recommend watching the following video by Thomas Frank: 5 Lessons from "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg. As well as a TED Talk by Charles Duhigg himself.

My three key takeaways, based on our discussion and the book, were the following:

  1. If people believe they made a personal choice to do something, and they understand the purpose behind their actions, they are far more likely to perform what is asked of them. As this relates to safety, it is integral to ensure that our employees have a personal stake in working safely, and that they understand and internalize the reasons for working safely.
  2. Safety is a “keystone habit,” meaning that by improving safety and the skills surrounding it (for example, improved communication and taking on responsibility for one’s actions and the actions of others) other habits can be improved. This occurs because small wins related to safety helps to build momentum for changing other habits.
  3. Behaviours and habits in organizations form from company culture, not what is written in the policy handbook. Controlling and growing a company culture in the direction you desire is important, otherwise the culture can grow toxic. Therefore, company culture is essential to improving individual safety.

Our resident Risk expert and life-long reader, John Wettstein, has been gracious in sharing some of the nuggets of wisdom he gleamed from the book. I look forward to our next book selection, reading, and meeting, and I hope you will be able to join us!

- Christopher Barton

Nuggets of Wisdom from “The Power of Habit” by John Wettstein

  1. Habits never really disappear – problem your brain can’t tell the difference between good and bad habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards. Page 20
  2. Cravings are what drive habits Page 59
  3. Keystone habits start a process that over time, transforms everything Page 100
  4. Change may not be fast and isn’t always easy, but with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped P288

Some thoughts on the above nuggets and how they may relate to safety

  1. Need to keep this in mind when investigating incidents. After all we are human and make mistakes. Was it an “error” or a “violation”? Big difference. Thinking 95% of the time it is an “error”, however many in my experience view as a “violation” mostly because they have not asked any questions for understanding
  2. So if we refer to the safety behaviour model. Trigger (Cue), Behaviour (Routine) and Consequence (Craving) we now have information on how to perhaps influence that Consequence (Craving) to shift that substandard/at risk Behaviour (Routine)
  3. What keystone habit can we initiate with workers to shift towards the safe/standard activities that are desired? Reminds of the following story: An East Coast Power Company had an unconventional indicator that proved diagnostic of larger system issues. When the incidence of bee stings goes up for electrical lineman working in the field, it’s a sign they are reaching into places without looking, and that means they may be getting sloppy when they handle power
  4. Be patient. Behaviours/Routines and culture take time to shift. In most cases we have to view incidents as learning opportunities, one step backwards, for two ahead.

Traditional - How can we change people?

Alternative - How can we support people to adapt successfully?

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