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April 10, 2004


Chuck Conway

15 days seems a little long… maybe a week. I agree it takes time to adjust. I have two cars, one has the shifter on the steering column and the other is on the floor. After driving one for a while I try to drive the other I keep reaching for the shifter on the column or the floor depending on which one I am use to at the moment.

We are people of habit, no doubt about that. I believe most people get into their “comfort zone” and try to live predictable lives. I personally change things up every so often. You never know when a serendipitous opportunity will present itself, whether it is the love of your life, the next job or the next big account.

Anders Rask

I personally stick to certain habits such as sitting at the same place for lunch, and parking my car in pretty much the same spot. Then agin other things I try changing all the time, such as the route I take whereever I am walking or driving, what pub, bar or cafe I meet with friends, where I shop for clothes, and so on.

Though habits have a surprising power over most people, the power of the social environment is typically stronger. People want to do like other people, and that can often be used to break the habit of an individual.

I think 15 days seem a little short if you are talking about the actual hard-wiring of your brain. To my knowledge the concept of the brain optimizing it's own wiring to accomodate the way of thinking is know as neuro-plasticity, and the timespan I have heard mentioned for the brain to alter itself is aprox. 3 months. For instance if you want to learn braille (written characters for the blind) it will take aprox 3 months before your sensitivity in your finger is improved enough, and you can actually start learning it.

The organization I am heading now is suffering under being only one person, but at the manufacturing-company I headed before that the ability to change (or 'evolability' as you call it) was my main concern. We just actually, litterally changed things all the time. Though this was a tough strategy, especially in the beginning, it quickly got people giving positive feedback to changes they liked. And from that point on it was just centering all change around the feedback, and this gave most people owner-ship in the changing process. Most people like their own changes a whole lot.


I mix it up all the time. I drive different ways to work. I vary my schedule, working some early days and some later, some heavy weeks and some lighter. I sit at a different spot at the dinner table each night, and my wife and I even sleep on different sides of the bed from time to time. I read at least one book a year on some topic I know nothing about, and at least one book that contains political or religious ideas that I totally disagree with. I think these little things help foster creativity.



true stroy: we were asked a few years back to get some marketing thinkers at a pretty sizable financial services company "way out of their comfort zone"; "we need outrageous, laugh out loud ideas", to use their phrases. They wanted to brainstorm new strategic marketing directions and wanted something besides the rented offsite banquet suite and easel pad session.

Long story short: We put together a rolling brainstorm on an airport shuttle bus for a day. It started by kidnapping a mannequin dressed as a banker and tying him to the roof rack and issuing sweatshirts and get out of jail free cards. Stops, with rapid fires between, included helping grocery customers take their stuff to the car and coming back with personal details about them, teams taking digital cameras to construct a team member's SSN while wandering a retail/light industrial district, a slalom through a walmart's parking lot around tumbleweed shopping carts and man on the streets giving away dollars for answers about "what money means to you" or "what would you do for 5 dollars?". The next to last stop was at a children's musem for rapid fires, drill down and wrap before driving them back to the office @ 4 and releasing the dummy.

That was the proposal.

Their response? "Ohh..." Seems "too outrageous." "That's not how we do things."

Result: A Hyatt offsite banquet room instead of the old Holiday Inn. Same easel pads.


My habits seem to scream "ease of use". I choose to park in my parking space at work because I can pull directly into it from the entrance of the lot. I choose my route to and from work based on the amount of traffic I expect to encounter. The restaurants I go to are generally easy to drive to—they’re not in busy areas. On the other hand, when it comes to buying books or trying new things, I do often look into subjects outside of my experience. One example would be the physics-related books that I have bought in the past. I'm not necessarily well-versed in physics (there’s plenty of it over my head), however, I do have strong interests in learning (or trying to learn) about string theory, black holes, etc. Another reason I changes habits is just that--they're habits. I don't want the feeling of being stuck in a rut.

As a side note, I came across a book at a bargain bookstore that may be a good complement to the book you're reading now: The Electric Meme: A New Theory of How We Think (by Robert Aunger). I should have picked it up—it was only $6. Of course, the fact that it was $6 AND in a bargain bookstore may say something about it…who knows?

Michele Miller

This reminds me of the story of someone questioning Pablo Picasso about his genius. When asked "How does one become creative?" his reply was, "Well, if you always put your right leg into your pants first when putting them on, try putting the left leg in first. That's a good place to start."


Needing to shake things up a bit, I found and "joined" (ok, I took part in -- no joining for me) a local IPSC group (http://www.ipsc.org/). Just a few saturday mornings worth. Lots of noise, running, sweating, and getting pretty durn fast -- for me. Got a bit better at hand-eye co-ordination, and curiously, a bit calmer in everyday life. I don't practice anymore, but consider it from time to time. I think I'll sign up to do the (high) ropes course again (http://www.google.com/search?q=%22Ropes+course%22), now that I can appreciate that it's about challenge and change (instead of just something wacky to do). We had a woman winched down last time... I was happy to make it to the next station, trembling on my way. Maybe take a driving course (http://www.google.com/search?q=%22race+car%22+driving+course)?

Coach Eric

Actually, 15 days is low. I've heard that it takes 21 days, minimum to change a habit. Big difference between a behavior and a habit, by the way - the habit is almost involuntary in nature, instinctual, even.

I heard Jack Canfield speak once. He claims that it really takes 13 weeks to get your act together changing a habit. For some of the toughies, like smoking, I can surely buy that.

On the other hand, it really depends on the strength of the motivating force. When I went on Weight Watchers, my eating habits changed immediately - because they had to. "Have to"s change the game, don't they?

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