Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
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Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives?
The primary obstacle is a conflict that's built into our brains, say Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the critically acclaimed bestseller Made to Stick. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems—the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort—but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.
In Switch, the Heaths show how everyday people—employees and managers, parents and nurses—have united both minds and, as a result, achieved dramatic results:
● The lowly medical interns who managed to defeat an entrenched, decades-old medical practice that was endangering patients.
● The home-organizing guru who developed a simple technique for overcoming the dread of housekeeping.
● The manager who transformed a lackadaisical customer-support team into service zealots by removing a standard tool of customer service
In a compelling, story-driven narrative, the Heaths bring together decades of counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline.
- Amazon Sales Rank: #181 in Books
- Published on: 2010-02-16
- Released on: 2010-02-16
- Original language: English
- Number of items: 1
- Dimensions: 1.24" h x 5.82" w x 8.62" l, 1.01 pounds
- Binding: Hardcover
- 320 pages
- ISBN13: 9780385528757
- Condition: New
- Notes: BRAND NEW FROM PUBLISHER! BUY WITH CONFIDENCE, Over one million books sold! 98% Positive feedback. Compare our books, prices and service to the competition. 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed
Chip Heath and Dan Heath on Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
"Change is hard." "People hate change." Those were two of the most common quotes we heard when we began to study change.
But it occurred to us that if people hate change, they have a funny way of showing it. Every iPhone sold serves as counter-evidence. So does every text message sent, every corporate merger finalized, every aluminum can recycled. And we haven't even mentioned the biggest changes: Getting married. Having kids. (If people hate change, then having a kid is an awfully dumb decision.)
It puzzled us--why do some huge changes, like marriage, come joyously, while some trivial changes, like submitting an expense report on time, meet fierce resistance?
We found the answer in the research of some brilliant psychologists who'd discovered that people have two separate "systems" in their brains—a rational system and an emotional system. The rational system is a thoughtful, logical planner. The emotional system is, well, emotional—and impulsive and instinctual.
When these two systems are in alignment, change can come quickly and easily (as when a dreamy-eyed couple gets married). When they're not, change can be grueling (as anyone who has struggled with a diet can attest).
In those situations where change is hard, is it possible to align the two systems? Is it possible to overcome our internal "schizophrenia" about change? We believe it is.
In our research, we studied people trying to make difficult changes: People fighting to lose weight and keep it off. Managers trying to overhaul an entrenched bureaucracy. Activists combatting seemingly intractable problems such as child malnutrition. They succeeded--and, to our surprise, we found striking similarities in the strategies they used. They seemed to share a similar game plan. We wanted, in Switch, to make that game plan available to everyone, in hopes that we could show people how to make the hard changes in life a little bit easier. --Chip and Dan Heath
(Photo © Amy Surdacki)
From Publishers Weekly
The Heath brothers (coauthors of Made to Stick) address motivating employees, family members, and ourselves in their analysis of why we too often fear change. Change is not inherently frightening, but our ability to alter our habits can be complicated by the disjunction between our rational and irrational minds: the self that wants to be swimsuit-season ready and the self that acquiesces to another slice of cake anyway. The trick is to find the balance between our powerful drives and our reason. The authors' lessons are backed up by anecdotes that deal with such things as new methods used to reform abusive parents, the revitalization of a dying South Dakota town, and the rebranding of megastore Target. Through these lively examples, the Heaths speak energetically and encouragingly on how to modify our behaviors and businesses. This clever discussion is an entertaining and educational must-read for executives and for ordinary citizens looking to get out of a rut. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Witty and instructive…The Heath brothers think that the sciences of human behavior can provide us with tools for making changes in our lives—tools that are more effective than 'willpower,' 'leadership' and other easier-said-than-done solutions. …For any effort at change to succeed, the Heaths argue, you have to 'shape the path.' With Switch they have shaped a path that leads in a most promising direction."
--The Wall Street Journal
"'Your brain is not of one mind,'" say the brothers Heath, co-authors of the bestseller Made to Stick. Using the terminology of University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt, the Heaths designate the emotional side of the mind as the Elephant and the rational side as the Rider…Switch is crammed with stories…covering a number of fields to drive home the importance of using the strengths of both the Rider and the Elephant to make change happen. This could be a valuable read for the would-be change-makers of the Obama administration."
--Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"Whether you're a manager, a parent or a civic leader, getting people to change can be tricky business. In Switch, brothers Chip and Dan Heath--authors of the best-selling Made to Stick--survey efforts to shape human behavior in search of what works…Even when change isn't easy, it's often worth making."
"Dan and Chip Heath have done it again…Any leader looking to create change in his organization need not look beyond this little book. It is packed with examples and hands-on tools that will get you moving right away. And it is really a fun read."
"No one likes change. Trouble is, of course, that everyone probably needs at least some of it. Here, the authors of the bestselling Made to Stick return with a book that looks at all aspects of change in human lives, from dieting to spending, from corporations to governments...a readable, entertaining and thought-provoking book. "
Most helpful customer reviews
272 of 294 people found the following review helpful.
Several sticky insights
By Robert Morris
Chip and Dan Heath have once again summoned a lively writing style to present a series of compelling insights that make this book even more interesting as well as more valuable than its predecessor, Made to Stick. As they explain in the first chapter, "In this book, we argue that successful changes share a common pattern. They require the leader of change to do three things at once: To change someone's behavior, you've got to change that person's situation...[to cope with the fact that change] is hard because people wear themselves out. And that's the second surprise about change: What looks like laziness is often exhaustion...If you want people to change, you must provide crystal clear direction [because what] looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity." Throughout, the Heaths work within a narrative, best viewed as a "three-part framework," as they provide countless real-world (as opposed to hypothetical or theoretical] examples and - to their great credit - also provide a context or frame-of-reference for each.
Moreover, the Heaths invoke a few extended metaphors. The most important of these are the Rider (i.e. our rational side), the Elephant, (i.e. our emotional and instinctive side) and the Path (i.e. the surrounding environment in which change initiatives will be conducted). The challenge is to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path to make change more likely, "no matter what's happening with the Rider and Elephant...If you can do all three at once, dramatic change can happen even if you don't have lots of power or resources behind you."
Donald Berwick offers an excellent case in point. In 2004, in his position as a doctor and the CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), he had developed some ideas as to "how to save lives - massive numbers of lives" and his ideas were so well-supported by research that they were indisputable and yet "little was happening" until he spoke at a professional meeting and proposed six very specific interventions to save lives. Within two months, more than 1,000 hospitals had signed up. Eighteen months later, to the day (June 14, 2006) he had previously announced that he'd promised to return, he announced the results: "Hospitals enrolled in the 100,000 Lives Campaign have collectively prevented an estimated 122,300 avoidable deaths and, as importantly, have begun to institutionalize new standards of care that will continue to save lives and improve health outcomes into the future." He had directed his audience's Riders (i.e. hospital administrators), he had motivated his audience's Elephants by making them feel the compelling need for change, and he had shaped the Path by making it easier for the hospitals to embrace the change. The Heaths offer more than a dozen other prime examples (e.g. Jerry Sternin in Vietnam, the Five-Minute Room Rescue, "Fataki" in Tanzania) that also demonstrate how the same three-part framework resulted in the achievement of major changes elsewhere despite great difficulty.
Near the end of the book, the Heaths summarize the key points they have so thoroughly made while explaining to their reader how to make a switch. "For things to change, somebody somewhere has to start acting differently. Maybe it's you, maybe it's your team. Picture the person (or people). Each has an emotional Elephant side and a rational Rider side. You've got to reach both. And you've also got to clear the way for them to succeed." By now, the Heaths have explained how others have directed the Rider, motivated the Elephant, and shaped the Path. They conclude their book with a Q&A section during which they advise how to resolve twelve problems that people most often encounter as they fight for change. They suggest, and I agree, that this advice "won't make sense to anybody who hasn't read the book." The same can probably be said about much of what I have shared in this review.
Although, in my opinion, this is one of the most important business books published during the last several years, no commentary such as mine can do full justice to it. It simply must be read and read carefully, preferably then re-read carefully. Otherwise, it makes no sense to visit www.switchthebook.com/resources to obtain additional information and assistance.
I offer my congratulations to Chip and Dan Heath on a brilliant achievement. Bravo!
42 of 44 people found the following review helpful.
Switching "On" Your Emotional Intelligence
By Bob Hayden
Switch is a compelling, story-driven narrative the Heaths use to bring together decades of counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can engage our emotions and reason to create real change.
The book is arranged around an analogy that illustrates the crux of emotional intelligence: when making a decision we are typically torn between our rational, logical reasons and our emotional, intuitive feelings. Chip and Dan ask us to imagine an Elephant and its Rider (the mahout). The Rider represents the rational and logical. Tell the Rider what to do, provide a good argument and the Rider will do it. The Elephant, on the other hand, represents our emotions, our gut response. If the Rider can direct the Elephant down a well-prepared path then there is a good chance for change. Otherwise, the massive elephant is bound to win.
The book is structured into three sections, each one suggesting specific behaviors you can follow:
I. Direct the Rider:
- Find the bright spots
- Script the critical moves
- Point to the destination
II. Motivate the Elephant:
- Find the feeling
- Shrink the Change;
- Grow your people
III. Shape the Path:
- Tweak the environment
- Build habits
- Rally the herd
All in all, it's an effective and memorable illustration of emotional intelligence.
75 of 84 people found the following review helpful.
Keys for making change happen, from the grassroots on up
By Amy Tiemann
I am a big fan of the Heath brothers' first book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die and I am happy to report that they have stepped up to the plate and hit another home run. As a writer and someone who works for social change, I found "Switch" to be even more engaging and applicable to my own work.
In "Switch," the Heaths once again take the kernel of a good idea originated by someone else and build an expansive original work around it. In "Made to Stick" that kernel was Malcolm Gladwell's concept of "stickiness," what makes ideas memorable. In "Switch" the core is psychologist and The Happiness Hypothesis author Jonathan Haidt's analogy for the mind: that the emotional side of our mind is like a headstrong Elephant, and the rational side of our mind is the guiding Rider. The Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader, but we all know what it's like for an emotional Elephant to overpower a rational Rider. (For example, this is why many of us would say that a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream should be labeled one serving and not four. Once a worked up Elephant digs in, the Rider has a hard time reining her in. Um, speaking hypothetically, of course.)
Add in the third element to this framework, the Path, and you have three elements that can be worked on to address change. "Switch" addresses each of these elements in detail; Directing the Rider, Motivating the Elephant, and Shaping the Path, bringing in research-tested solutions and real-world success stories. What I liked best was the simplicity of many of the examples. To encourage people to "eat healthier," an initiative that could go in so many directions, rather than doing something complicated like following an illogically-designed government "Food Pyramid," a West Virginia initiative instead encouraged people to take one step, to buy 1% or skim milk. That is simple, and creates change at the level of purchasing behavior rather than altering drinking or eating behavior. (If the Ben & Jerry's isn't in the freezer in the first place, the Rider doesn't have to worry about controlling the Elephant.) And by narrowing the change down to one action, that eliminated choice paralysis and ambiguity that arise with more complicated directives.
"Switch" is a book for anyone from the grassroots, to cubicle nation, to CEOs. Most of the examples consciously focus on people who needed to effect significant change with little power and few resources available to them. How could a low-level NGO employee make a difference in alleviating the malnourishment of Vietnamese children, in only six months? By finding "bright spots," identifying children who were thriving, finding out what their mothers were doing differently, and spreading that knowledge to other families. Stories like this are both inspiring and practical for all of us. This is really what I appreciated most about "Switch." I found myself taking notes that were not only about the book itself, but about how I could apply this knowledge to challenges I am working on. The Elephant-Rider-Path metaphor helped me see my own work in a new light. What more can a reader ask for?