The IDG Blog

Breaking Bad: How to See Our Habits Differently


Breaking Bad: How to See Our Habits Differently

by Heather Couchman

Director of Operations

Although a big fan of the box set unfortunately I am not going to voice my views on the life of Walter White who turns to a life of crime due to developing terminal lung cancer. I am however going to speak of a problem I frequently see and find myself shaking my head at and asking “why oh why is this happening again?”

I am sure many of us in business and in our personal lives witness “results” that are unexpected, or far from optimal. Maybe it’s a mandatory request for something to be completed that when requesting it to be actioned the word mandatory seems to fade into non-existence. Why does this happen? More to the point, why do we allow it to happen again and again, knowing full well what the end result is likely to be? At IDG we often refer to this as “bumping” and it is beautifully articulated by A.A. Milne:

“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn’t. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you. Winnie the Pooh.”
– Extract from “Winnie the Pooh” by A. A. Milne, first published in 1924.

Poor Pooh Bear, constantly being bumped down the stairs. Surely when his arm drops off followed by a missing eye, Christopher Robin will wonder if there was a better way of getting him to the bottom of the stairs? If Christopher Robin had seen things differently he wouldn’t have continued with this rather barbaric way of transport!

The broader question here is why do we keep doing things in a certain way that we know just aren’t going to work? This is a topic that Franklin Covey delves into in some detail in his highly successful book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Covey describes this scenario as:

It explains that what we GET is a product of what we DO which is influenced by what we SEE: you would think therefore that if we are not pleased with the outcomes in a particular area (results), the obvious action would be to change what we do (the behaviour). However, very often we don’t and instead keep doing the same thing, hoping that somehow we will obtain a better result.

I think at times we are all guilty of this and need to remind ourselves that what we need to do is “see” things differently to obtain better results. If we try and take an alternative perspective, this may lead to us doing things another way which in turn may give us different – hopefully better – results.

It is important to recognise that people “see” a given situation through many filters personal to themselves which they may not necessarily recognise or acknowledge. These include:

  • History
  • Habits
  • Beliefs
  • Tendencies
  • Motives
  • Cultural Influences

In the interest of getting better results we need to be open to questioning what we “see”: this takes time and reflection. We believe it is therefore important to add an additional step to the model:

“Reflect” enables us to stand apart from ourselves, seek feedback and question what we see. This is where collaboration with a trusted colleague is key. If only Christopher Robin had stopped at the bottom of the stairs, spoke to his mother, and seen the stairs differently maybe Winnie wouldn’t now have his arm in plaster and a patch over his eye!

Long live Winnie the Pooh and here’s to seeing things differently to improve our end results.

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