Creatures of Habit Syndrome: Are You Fighting a Losing Battle to Change Your Culture?


Have you ever noticed that every gang of pals on a television show hangs out in the same place? Friends drank coffee at Central Perk. M.A.S.H. downed moonshine and played cards in Hawkeye’s tent. Seinfeld ate in Monk’s Café. The Office, well, stayed in the office. While familiarity may be a common trope of sitcoms, research shows that we are not much different.

According to a new study in Nature Human Behavior, people return to a maximum of 25 places at any given time. These ‘favorite places’ change; yet we continue to stick with a top 25. This pattern, which researchers say is driven by a combination of human laziness and curiosity, remains consistent even as our geographic circle expands—as we find a new favorite, a previous one is replaced.

On one side, I enjoy these research findings out of pure sociological interest. However, from a leadership standpoint, there are also beneficial aspects to consider. If our team maintains only 25 ‘favorite places’ at any one time, are we overwhelming them with options? Or, for those of us who overly limit choices, are we underestimating the amount with which they can focus? Either way, it’s something to consider as we roll out new initiatives, projects, and goals.

People’s limitations on their go-to places should not create a glass ceiling on the options we provide, but we need to remain cognizant of the mental bandwidth our team members possess. There’s a balance between the reliance on familiar places and the exploration of new opportunities. Find that balance and you may crack the code on change management.

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