Habits, Personality and Corporate Culture @ BYOB Party in October 2019 (Part 2)

This time we had a wider range of non-fiction. Rohan spoke about a book called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change by Charles Duhigg. This book talks about the science behind habits and how good habits translate into more success stories. “The author talks about how habits are formed,” Rohan said. “My biggest takeaway from the book was the way he broke down the process of habit formation int three parts: trigger, response, reward. So if we want to form habits or break habits we need to fix the trigger. Being able to break an unpleasant habit is very satisfying. In my case, I used to eat a lot of junk food before, but I realized that my goal was to satisfy my hunger. I replaced junk with fruits and nuts and got the same sense of satisfaction from my food.” The book also features negative habit disorders like OCD and alcoholism. While there was a time when electric shock therapy was the norm to break habits, today alcoholism is tackled with Alcoholics Annonymous. Social pressure helps immensely in habit-breaking.

“The BYOB Party encourages people to cultivate the habit of reading books,” Jaya said.

Personality: What makes you the way you are (Oxford Landmark Science) by [Nettle, Daniel]While habits can be rectified, personality is hard to change. Samarth spoke about Personality-What makes you the way you are, a book by Daniel Nettle. If you distrust personality questionnaires, reading this book provides a lot of insight. The book explores the science behind human personality. Samarth summed up the book effectively.

“I used to believe that situation and circumstance were more of the determinants of the trajectory of a person’s life than his or her personality. This book changed my perceptions. In the past few decades, there has been a renaissance of sorts in the field of personality psychology- the brain is now the subject of intense study and conclusions have been drawn about the brain’s functioning using technologies, genetics, and genomics. The author validates the five-factor model which measures personality on five scales or what can be grouped into the acronym OCEAN (Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism). Personality has now been directly linked to the structure and function of different parts of the brain or variation in the prevalence of a gene. All of these variations in personality traits can be found in other species too- like mammals, fishes, birds…so there have been studies conducted on the personalities of fish and it turns out that some fish are more exploratory and others more inhibited.

“An interesting aspect of personality is heritability. An organism could manifest behavior that has a clear advantage or disadvantage for its survival or reproductive success. It makes sense to observe uniformity in personality traits. The conclusion I made is that there is no personality profile that is optimal for all situations and all times. The optimal personality depends heavily on the local environmental conditions which fluctuate over time.

“Interesting studies have been conducted and variation is not uncommon, so there may be two people of the same age and from the same place who have very different life stories. Circumstances play a huge role and biological factors can not be underestimated. Nature and nurture- very much a case of both.

“So what’s the use of taking a personality questionnaire? Based on your scores, and where you stand, you can learn about other people who are similar to you. You can tap into that and better orient your life, maximize your strengths and minimize your failings.”

Jaya agreed. “Putting a label on yourself helps you understand why you are the way you are. Then strengths and weaknesses are not about changing but more about acceptance. Introverts are at a disadvantage at the corporate level but once you identify yourself as an introvert, you can look for solutions to combat difficult situations. In a corporate set-up, you could send out emails before a meeting so that there is more clarity and the people you meet with are on the same page.”

There is no morality in personality. Once you accept who you are rather than try to fix who you are, life becomes far easier. A glimmer of hope lies in the fact that some aspects of personality are malleable but trying too hard to change who you are could lead to mental health problems that are best avoided.

Ralph worried whether personality questionnaires were merely data waiting to be mined. He got the book The Secret Life of organizations: Invisible Rules of Success for the Young Indian Professional by Shalini Lal and Pradnya Parasher.

Ralph read out some parts of the book.

“How much do employees care about the organization?” to which answers included: “An existential question,” “They mostly bail out in the hour of need,” and “Depends on how much the company cares for them.”

“Do you see your peers as competitors or collaborators? Do your peers see you as a follower or a leader? How much cooperation happens? What’s the secret answer?”

“How do you get ahead in your career while taking people along with you?”

The general consensus was that the authors had baited their readers with the title. Who wouldn’t want to know more about the secret life of organizations? The book is geared toward the bright-eyed graduate who must make the transition from campus to corporate. Which white-collar worker believes that compassion is the bedrock of corporate life?  Advice like that works only when you start out in your career. No secret there.

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