The human brain is wired for patterns. Anywhere the brain can write a process map that will reduce the amount of effort it takes to solve a problem or answer a question, it will. On one hand, this is great. The less effort the brain exerts, the less oxygen it needs. The less effort we exert, the more energy we have for other things. We call these process models “mental maps” and, once written, mental maps are never erased or written over. New mental maps must be written, and there must be sufficient reward in that new mental map to convince the brain to follow it. All that energy to learn something new.

On the other hand, some habits need to be broken. Like NPS, the “how likely to recommend” survey that has somehow survived for decades despite its methodology being statistically discredited, its premise (there is a single universal metric to measure customer loyalty) disproven, and its impact challenged.

I’ve been questioning NPS for a decade, and for the better part of that ten years, all I ever got in return were blank stares and defensive replies. Conferences rejected my proposals to speak about what comes after NPS. So many executives had their compensation tightly tied to NPS that it seemed as though I was suggesting they not earn their annual bonuses.

In the last year, something changed. I was invited to speak at a banking conference in Philadelphia about the twin challenges of changing consumer expectations and the rapid evolution of the mobile digital economy. I challenged the event’s attendees to reconsider their embrace of NPS, because they were relying on someone else’s idea of what “loyalty” is, and loyalty is something you should outsource.

When I was finished, I got a rousing ovation — much more enthusiastic than I anticipated — and at least a dozen leaders stopped me to say it was the first time anyone had ever gotten them to stop and think about their relationship with their customers outside the context of NPS. Even the man who hired me — the guy who had his team put an NPS survey on every table in the venue where I spoke — was affected. Two men who reported to him pulled me aside and practically begged me to help their boss change.

“We spend two hours every week reviewing NPS, and we never do a thing about it. Huge waste of time.”

But the habit that is NPS is a mental map that’s been written on peoples’ minds for decades. It’s a tough one to unlearn.

Great leaders don’t fall in love with the things they and their teams build. They reward the hard work of building it. They appreciate the result it generates. But they are very willing to wonder “what’s the next version of this solution?”

Indeed, the very act of being curious keeps us more alive.

It’s not just the brain’s desire for efficiency that prevents us from breaking habits. The modern myth of how overworked we are has us trapped in the “tyranny of now”, where busy has replaced meaningful.

I’ll be talking more about NPS at SOCAP’s international conference this October in Salt Lake City. And I’ll be talking more about disruption — personal and professional — right here. I hope you’ll join the conversation. and professional — right here. I hope you’ll join the conversation.