Charles Duhigg unveils the habit loop: cue, routine and reward. This process may seem to enslave us, but studies show we can diagnose our habits and change them.
On a societal level, he attributes to the power of habit the King's Cross fire of 1987, the dramatic change of Alcoa's fortunes under a new manager, the wild success of Starbucks, the Mongomery bus boycott and the shameful past record of the error-ridden Rhode Island Hospital.
Some stories are inspiring, others downright hair-raising. Chillingly, Target uses algorithms on shopper data to identify pregnant customers in order to recruit them as long term buyers of everything in the shop.
After relating the tragic individual stories of a compulsive gambler and a sleepwalking murderer, the author waxes philosophical, tackling questions of free will and personal responsibility. He cites the life path of the great philosopher William James to illustrate how individuals can choose to alter their habits, and thus, their destiny.
This is a truly engaging book, well-researched and also practical. Along with a staggering list of research sources, Duhigg includes a guide for readers to implement what they've learned, and alter their own habits. He talks about his book on You-Tube here.