Two books I highly recommend if you're interested in how personal /organizational habits can be instilled, and how you fool yourself on a daily basis probably without knowing it (and what to do about that):
"Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg
Many case studies of how various individuals and organizations reshape their habits. The book is not instructional in any way and I would love to see more in-depth look at actual challenges to building new habits on individual level.
Some interesting bits from this book:
- Once a strong habit is formed, it's always present in our head, so it's always possible to relapse.
- A solid way to remove bad habits is to identify (mostly environmental) cues that make us start on the bad routine; replace the routine with something else that's not as destructive but what also gives same reward. Trivial example: you feel like eating a snack; normally you'd go for a cookie or something; instead you learn to always have a healthier snack (nuts, fruit) at your desk, which provides similar reward.
- Often we are on our good behavior most of the time, but when pressure rises (e.g. Starbucks employee gets into an argument with an angry customer) we do something we later regret. The clever idea is to have a plan ready for when that happens; example in the book: Starbucks employee prepares a written plan for dealing with an anticipated, very stressful situation. That makes it more likely for him to behave "well" where otherwise automatic "bad" behavior might be unavoidable.
- More references to the idea that "willpower is depletable resource" (e.g. why do people often spend most of the day eating healthy food and eventually go on to clear out half the fridge at night? :) I'm not saying it looked like sound scientific research, but it was a good anecdote that when tired / stressed, we act in ways that we don't like later on. That's why I like the suggestion to be mentally prepared for the bad moments to minimize their impact.
"Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman
A detailed, broad account of how we are prone to mistakes of thought without ever realizing we make them - by describing two systems, System 1 and System 2 - aspects of how our minds work, and how they work together to produce judgements/decisions. I wish policy makers, educators, business people and parents had the kind of mindset Kahneman advocates, i.e. we're wrong more often than we realize, and it may lead to poor results at work and in personal life.
Some interesting bits from this book:
- Every chapter of the book suggests ways to speak about the issues Kahneman describes, e.g. examples of the way to talk to others in order to combat specific cognitive biases discovered by scientists - like these:
- combat halo effect: “She knows nothing about this person’s management skills. All she is going by is the halo effect from a good presentation.”
- combat wanting only to support what you already know: "“They didn’t want more information that might spoil their story. WYSIATI.” [WYSIATI = what you see is all there is, a cognitive heuristic Kahneman describes in detail]
- Even more research suggesting that when people are tired and their "System 2" is depleted (System 2 is the conscious, slow, deliberate, doubting aspect of the mind/brain), they are prone to bad judgement.
- Many good examples for each of the most prevalent cognitive biases like the halo effect or availability bias (I think I was hit by that one in at least half the conversations in my life)
- "Indeed, you will often find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern." and "It is the consistency of the information that matters for a good story, not its completeness." - in other words, the more you know, the more information you can hold in your 'active' mind at a time, the more critical, careful and doubtful you will be. This sounds to me a lot like why non-nerds laugh at nerds; nerds tend to hold much more information about a topic in their heads, and this perhaps leads to what non-nerds call "philosophizing". I'll leave you to pick sides in this eternal conflict :)
The hard part, as usual - implementing it all.