CNLP 447: Charles Duhigg on What Most Leaders Don’t Know About Innovation, the Killer App of Deep Thinking, and How to Develop Better Habits

Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author Charles Duhigg explains what most leaders don’t know about innovation, why deep thinking is the killer app throughout history, and how to develop better habits.

Welcome to Episode 447 of the podcast. Listen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Plus, in this episode’s Ask Me Anything About Productivity segment, Carey answers Jim’s question about balancing stress while recognizing personal limits.

Have a question about productivity? Let Carey coach you. Leave your message here!

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At Your Best

My latest book, At Your Best, released this month.

My favorite chapter, Chapter 12, starts with a quote from Dallas Willard. He says, “What our life amounts to, at least for those who reach full age, is largely, if not entirely, a matter of what we become within.”

Throughout the book, you get strategies to help you accomplish far more in far less time. And while progress generates a hit of dopamine that is motivating, character formation and growth are more deeply motivating.

Doing what you’re best at when you’re at your best is, to some extent, about what you accomplish. But to a much deeper extent, it’s about creating the space you need to focus on who you’re becoming. That’s much more important than what you’re doing.

You can’t get previous years back, but you can certainly live a more intentional and focused life moving forward.

Whether it’s a character shift, a better marriage, more time with your kids, time you spend with scripture or in prayer, hobbies, friendships or rest, At Your Best can help you love the person you’re becoming.

Go to to get the book today.

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Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

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Speaking of Psychology: How the science of habits can help us keep our New Year’s resolutions, with Wendy Wood, PhD

What the Research on Habit Formation Reveals About our Willpower and Overall Well-Being

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Incredible Productivity and Never Burnout – Carey Nieuwhof on The Art of Charm Podcast

CNLP 403: Cal Newport on Why You’re Distracted and Unproductive at Work, How to Structure Your Work Life Far More Effectively, and Cultivating Influence Without Social Media

At Your Best by Carey Nieuwhof

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Insights From Charles

1. Think more deeply and become more productive

Contrary to popular belief, people who get more done aren’t working harder. Highly productive individuals are not jamming more into their day, they’re making better choices about what they’re doing.

Most of us want to go on autopilot. We want to come up with a to-do list, and then we wake up and do what’s at the top of the to-do list. We find that the easiest thing to do so we can cross it off. But the problem is that there’s nothing more wasteful than optimizing what never should have been done in the first place.

Replying to emails is almost always a waste of time, even if it makes you feel good, even if it makes you feel you’ve gotten something done. But all that’s going to happen is that you’re going to get more emails.

Charles recommends choosing the one most important thing you need to do during a day, which is usually the hardest thing. And when you do that one most important thing, the thing that’s going to make the biggest difference, give yourself a reward.

2. Keystone habits matter more than others

In the interview, Charles describes that when some habits start to change, it sets off a chain reaction that changes other habits as well. These are called keystone habits. They change how you see yourself. And they’re different for everyone.

Take, for example, exercising. If you develop a habit of exercising, it can cause of chain reactions of other habits—healthy eating, less procrastination, lesser spending. When that habit emerges, it changes other habits almost automatically. Why is that? It’s because of how these habits cause you to see yourself. You might now say, “I exercise, therefore, I should eat healthy because I’m trying to maintain good health.”

What keystone habits are you interested in applying in your life?

3. The most innovative people are not the most creative people

We think of creativity as the artist waiting for a brainstorm, somebody who has this completely original idea, but Charles says that that’s not where most innovation comes from. Most innovation comes from the product of people who are known as innovation brokers.

Innovation brokers take a well-established idea from one setting and drop it in a new setting, or they take two well-established ideas and they combine them in a new way. To develop more innovation, ask yourself these two questions:

1. How can you expose yourself to new ideas?
2. How can you force yourself to see the connections?

Quotes from Episode 447

There's nothing more wasteful than optimizing what never should have been done in the first place. @cduhigg Click To Tweet The killer productivity app has always been thinking more deeply. @cduhigg Click To Tweet The people who get more done, it is not because they are working harder. It's because they're making better choices about what they're doing, how they're spending their time. @cduhigg Click To Tweet Within most settings, the most innovative people are not the most creative people. @cduhigg Click To Tweet You're not going to do all habits unless there's some reward. @cduhigg Click To Tweet 40 to 45% of what we do every day is a habit. @cduhigg Click To Tweet Every habit has three components. There's a cue, which is a trigger for an automatic behavior to start. Routine, which is the behavior itself, what we normally think of as the habit. Then, there's a reward. @cduhigg Click To Tweet There is this constant opportunity for mediocrity in life. @cduhigg Click To Tweet Live in a way today that will help you thrive tomorrow. Click To Tweet

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Next Episode: Michael Todd

Michael Todd, New York Times bestselling author and pastor of Transformation Church, takes us behind the scenes to share what he’s learned about where his drive and quest for success comes from, what taking 103 days off of leadership has done for him, and what it takes to have crazy faith.

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 448.

CNLP 447: Charles Duhigg on What Most Leaders Don’t Know About Innovation, the Killer App of Deep Thinking, and How to Develop Better Habits

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