We all have habits. Habits make many things easier. We manage to drive home from the office without much thought, automatically turning here and there as required. You have a favorite area or even seat in an auditorium that you automatically aim for upon entering. Watching a good bartender make a complex drink without measuring a single thing always intrigues me. Their body has learned exactly how long to pour this or how big a shake of that make the perfect drink. To make it easier for your favorite bartender, you might have a drink you always order.
Habit also have the unfortunate effect of locking us in, making us comfortable, stopping us from exploring new things and ideas. New things, things that might be better that what we’ve become habituated to. New things that might lead to improved operations or decreased costs. New ideas that might lead to a new product or service.
Paloma Picasso recently said in WSJ Magazine that she resists habit. Her method? Travel. As she says “travel has always been a way of stepping out of habit. If you’re in a different place, you do things differently.” She goes on to mention that her father Pablo Picasso never did anything geared to habit.
In the same article Michael Kors, the fashion designer says his most consistent habit is contradiction. Iced tea is a constant in his hand, he often travels to the same places, and he sketches with the same tools he’s use since he was a teenager. But, he has the attention span of a gnat that leads him to want to balance the habits with the cutting edge new. The habits to get the work done with great skill but the cutting edge new for the ideas and inspiration.
The problem for many is that they have the habits but never look for the cutting edge new. They are stuck in place with habits running their life and never manage to find a different place where they are required to do things differently.
The rut wins out over the peak.
From the same WSJ Magazine article, tennis star Maria Sharapova mentions that responsiveness to change is what sets the great players apart. Success comes from adaptation, actually, not only from being able to adapt but from being able to anticipate the need to adapt. Habit drives the basic moves but responsiveness and adaptation are what make a good player great.
And so it is in business. Many are good at what they do. Few are exceptional. Many let habit guide the way their business operates, the way they make management decisions. Few see everything they do as an opportunity to improve things. How many times have you heard…or said…”that’s the way we do things here”? Habit run amok even in the face of mediocrity, or even failure.
Stay fresh. Listen to Paloma Picasso, Michael Kors, Maria Sharapova. Use your habits wisely but don’t let them run your life, or your business. Travel widely, search out cutting edge new, be responsive and adaptive.
Surprise your bartender. Ask for something different.