Dictionary.com defines a habit as “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost voluntary”. Every night, before I go to bed, I brush and floss my teeth. It is a habit. I don’t have to make a decision whether or not to clean my teeth – it is an automatic behavior. Even when I travel, I follow the same habit in a hotel or camping.
I like to consider brushing my teeth every night as a “good” habit. Unfortunately, habits might also reinforce “bad” behaviors.
Following a routine makes life easier because we do not have to think too much about various choices. Since we can reliably predict the outcome of the repeated behavior, we reduce unplanned or negative risks. Yet, living a life devoid of unexpected outcomes and minimizing the potential of all downside risk means we miss out on unanticipated pleasant events, too.
My undergraduate Chemical Engineering (ChE) degree was in a relatively small class, actually a really small class. There were eight (8) of us at the University of Idaho (Go Vandals!). Almost all of our junior and senior level ChE courses were taught in the same, single classroom. Without fail, at the start of a new semester or new school year, each of us chose a seat and then sat in the same place for every class. We had created a habit.
While this routine was good – if I missed something the professor said, my friend Carmen had captured it in her notes – we may have missed out on other activities because of habit. Not interacting with the other six students as closely as we did with each other left us without opportunities to teach others, to view course information from a different perspective, or to have our own mistakes corrected.
Every habit has some degree of “good” and some degree of “bad” incorporated. Successful innovators and leaders will seek to have the balance of “good” habits outweigh the “bad” habits.
Destructive habits are routine behaviors that are automatic but cause harm to us or to others. At this point in history, I am particularly worried about the bad habits being forced on us by extreme government regulation. Not being able to get a haircut during the government shutdown may force us to “creatively” learn a new style, but not being able to interact with our colleagues and religious communities is very, very dangerous over the long term.
The habit of “social distancing” will build habits yielding unintended consequences for several generations. We are already seeing negative impacts in which elderly people living in nursing homes are suffering from excess disease and reduced healing rates with forced “no contact” with family members and friends. Loneliness was already a recognized health risk for the elderly, and government edicts are making this contagion even worse. My heart breaks for old people dying without last rites and without someone they love holding their hand.
Loss of Creativity
I have spent the majority of my career working in R&D and helping others become more effective within their innovation ecosystem. I have even written about the benefits of working in virtual teams (Chapter 6 in Leveraging Innovation Constraints) and I offer a training course for global teams on the Virtual Team Model.
Using globally dispersed teams enhances innovation by providing local market information to the team. However, without VTM, study after study shows that virtual teams underperform those that work face-to-face. In stark contrast, the forced division in our professional and personal lives is a destructive habit that threatens our freedom. A free and independent capitalist economy relies on personal and face-to-face interactions (not masked!). All of us need personal touches to survive – a smile, a handshake, a hug.
Moreover, at this time when there appears to be little or no real scientific data supporting societal breakdown, we are losing creativity. If the government does not permit you to “look over someone’s shoulder,” how can you collaborate and build something new together? How do we solve problems that require shared skills to build a tangible product?
Fight Your Bad Habits
While I am dedicated to brushing my teeth every night before going to bed, I struggle with the health recommendation to not eat snacks an hour before bedtime. I have set up systems and memory triggers to fight this bad habit. This is something I can change on my own time and on my own terms.
The bad habits that society is learning today, cause me to be truly and sincerely frightened. My husband thought that a picture of chrysanthemums in our church bulletin was a “coronavirus” depiction. A very bad habit! I fear that American society will emerge permanently damaged and broken from the government lockdowns.
People, especially youth, are being taught that distance is a social behavior. I can’t think of two words that are more opposite! As a society, we have lost civil rights and social freedoms after every national crisis, such as taking our shoes off as a symbol of airline security. Today’s bad habits to forcibly eliminate interacting with other people will result in a loss of creativity and innovation. America’s role as an inventor and economic superpower will be diminished (or decimated) if we do not fight the bad habits imposed upon us.
What Can You Do?
Honestly, I’m not sure what to do since long-term predictions for economic stability are unavailable and those that are spread in the media are unbelievable. Many of our cities are further crumbling under mob rule. It’s difficult to predict what to do next. I, personally, am changing my focus from where my business has been for 10 years. I love to travel and interact with committed teams. It is challenging to replace this interaction with computer screens and video conferences.
On a societal level, we must have an urgent call to government leaders to open the economy sooner rather than later. Our way of life, and America’s position as the superpower and financial backing of reserve currency, will die if governments continue to prevent natural human communication and collaboration.
Reset Your Strategy
While I often feel depressed and beleaguered by the mass media news, I am actively trying to build new habits for myself and my business. Like all innovation work, the place to start is strategy. Where do you want to go? What opportunities are available that give you enjoyment in your work and professional life? What do your customers want? How can you rally your team to support good habits?
Reset Your Strategy is a four-hour workshop that will help you independently answer this question. We will provide the theory, frameworks, and tools so that you will leave the workshop with a specific, actionable strategy to take you out of 2020. Register here. We have special discounts for anyone who is unemployed right now. And, with all the depressing news on television and the radio, I promise to leave you laughing with our top-secret and mega-fun contest during the workshop (attendees only).
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I am inspired by writing, teaching, and coaching. I tackle life with an infusion of rigor, zeal, and faith. It brings me joy to help you build innovation leaders. Teresa Jurgens-Kowal is an experienced innovation professional with a passion for lifelong learning with a PhD in Chemical Engineering and an MBA in Computer and Information Decision Making. My credentials include PE (State of Louisiana), NPDP, PMP®, and CPEM, and I am a DiSC® certified facilitator. Contact me at email@example.com or area code 281 + phone 787-3979 for more information on coaching for entrepreneurs and innovators.