By: Laurie Gethin, Director, Education, Food Marketing Institute
Productive At Work

How do the best minds remain productive? According to research by New York Times author Charles Duhigg, peak performers are successful because of how they think, not necessarily what they do.

At Future Leaders eXperience, Duhigg offered that human brains could handle multitasking until the 1950s when computers emerged, offering more distraction and making multitasking harder. It has become more critical than ever for people to build habits into their lives that help them think more deeply. Instead of being busy all the time, Duhigg said, you become productive.

Duhigg went on to describe three ways that peak performers have built in habits to think more deeply, catalysts he identified as innovation, focus and how we motivate teams.

Being creative on-demand is something you think about weekly if not daily, Duhigg said. However, he cautioned that instead of creating something completely new, you can combine clichés to make something creative, thus making innovation more productive. In fact, the invention of the modern bike helmet was not an original concept, it was actually derived from the methodology behind the hull of a boat and how the hull reacts to impact. Duhigg described, “There are no creative people. There are creative processes.” He said innovation is an import-export business and we are innovation brokers, coaching people to form habits and exposing people to experiences.

Our brains are constantly searching for stories; Duhigg explained that executives who tend to imagine their days with more specificity win. “Focus is visualizing what ought to happen and then challenging yourself,” he said. This focus and the act of changing a story is how cognitive routines work, and Duhigg shared that the derivation of situational awareness comes from the aviation industry in how they train pilots to build mental models and representations. “It's the act of telling ourselves stories of what we expect to occur,” Duhigg emphasized.

So how do you teach willpower and form it into a habit? Motivation for our work expands when we feel in control, Duhigg shared. Show your employees what they do matters and how they can make a difference. He concluded that the food retail industry is in the life-changing business.