Innovation and the Habit Loop

Innovation and the
Role of Habit

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD, ROB Professional Editor


In our pathway to creating cultures of innovation within our practices, we need to examine the habits by which we function. Further, we need to strategize ways in which we can alter those powerful habits to truly embrace innovation as a way of life.


Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, describes a process he calls the “Habit Loop.” There are three components:


Cue: A cue tells your brain that it’s time to start a specific routine.

Routine: Your brain shifts into autopilot and begins the routine.

Reward: A reward imparts a sense of satisfaction or completion.


Duhigg cites a simple example of a habit loop in his own behavior: Restlessness late in the workday cued a routine of visiting the cafeteria for a cookie. The reward was quick satisfaction. However, Duhigg saw that he was gaining weight from his daily cookie, so he sought to alter his habit loop. Not so easy, he found. His routine of satisfying a sweet craving fed a powerful reward in his habit loop.


Duhigg uncovered what he calls the “Golden Rule of Habit Change:" You cannot simply eradicate a habit loop. You can, however, insert a new routine while maintaining the same cue and same reward.


Duhigg tried substituting a series of edible rewards in the routine phase, then he realized that the reward he sought really was the social interaction when he ate his cookie in the cafeteria. Duhigg eliminated the cookie and avoided the cafeteria (altering the routine) and concentrated on chatting with a colleague near his work station when the afternoon craving occurred (maintaining the same reward). His sweet craving disappeared, he found, replaced by social interaction.


The four videos in this article examine a series of habit loops that we maintain in our optometric practices. These habits can be powerful drivers of our behavior and can impede our ability to embrace change to best serve our patients and allow our practices to flourish.




The Role of Habit: From Concept to Practice


The Power of Habit: Concept to Practice: Part 1


How To Change Habits: Part 2


How to Change Habits in Organizations and Practices: Part 3


How Organizations and Practices Change Habits: Part 4

Capturing the Presbyopic Opportunity


Go Ahead--Rock the Boat