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Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (2010)

by Chip Heath, Dan Heath (Author)

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This is one of the best books I've read about change. Chip and Dan Heath provide a simple, but comprehensive framework for change management. We are controlled by both a rational mind (sometimes called the rider because we think it is in control) and an emotional mind (sometimes called the elephant because it is prone to galloping off despite the rider's wishes). Change management must play to both of these internal systems by "Directing the Rider" (providing a path for the rational mind to follow) and "Motivating the Elephant" (addressing the need to motivate the emotional mind). However, change management must also consider the environment in which the change is occurring by "Shaping the Path." The Heath brothers provide numerous specific techniques for achieving these three goals. The techniques are based on research evidence and illustrated by stories, showing that a book on change management must also address both the rational and emotional minds. I highly recommend this book to managers who are engaged in organizational change. Those of us who are trying to make personal changes will also find many helpful tips as well. ( )
  porch_reader | Apr 21, 2014 |
To start with, I really liked the 'rider-elephant-path' analogy that the authors have chosen to explain change. It made understanding the process of change a lot simpler.

The book makes you think about human behavior itself and to some extent, answers why people are the way they are. It gave me some insight into how we can bridge the gap between rational/logical brain with the emotional (not so logical) will.

I could also closely relate myself to some of the examples that are mentioned in the book - allowed me to appreciate the book even more.

This book is for any one who works with humans. There are definitely scenarios where you'd want something different from the other person/people and the chapters of the book help you achieve the same.

I would like to start by applying these concepts on myself first.

"For individual's behavior to change, you've got to influence not only their environment, but their hearts and minds. The problem is that heart and minds often disagree." ( )
  nmarun | Mar 11, 2014 |
I now use the concepts in this book often at work. The book provides a good practical methodology for getting from A to B. Worth reading. ( )
  DrY | Jul 10, 2013 |
Enjoyed this look at change. Some of my favorite quotes include:
“the basic three-part framework … that can guide you in any situation where you need to change behavior:
• Direct the Rider. What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So provide crystal-clear direction. …
• Motivate the Elephant. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. The Rider can't get his way by force for very long. So it's critical that you engage people's emotional side—get their Elephants on the path and cooperative. …
• Shape the Path. What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. We call the situation (including the surrounding environment) the "Path." When you shape the Path, you make change more likely, no matter what's happening with the Rider and Elephant.
But if you’re trying to change things, there are going to be bright spots in your field of view, and if you learn to recognize them and understand them, you will solve one of the fundamental mysteries of change: What, exactly, needs to be done differently?
“Many leaders pride themselves on setting high-level direction: I'll set the vision and stay out of the details. It’s true that a compelling vision is critical. … But it’s not enough. Big-picture hands-off leadership isn’t likely to work in a change situation, because the hardest part of change – the paralyzing part - is precisely in the details.”
"Clarity dissolves resistance."
“A destination postcard - a vivid picture from the near-term future that shows what could be possible.”
“First, follow the bright spots… Don't obsess about the failures - instead, investigate and clone the successes. Next, give direction to the Rider – both a start and a finish. Send him a destination postcard … and script his critical moves… When you do these things, you’ll prepare the Rider to lead a switch. And you’ll arm him for the ongoing struggles with his reluctant and formidable partner, the Elephant.”
“In most change situations, the parameters aren’t well understood, and the future is fuzzy. Because of the uncertainty that change brings, the Elephant is reluctant to move, and the analytical arguments will not overcome that reluctance. … Kotter and Cohen observe that, in almost all successful change efforts, the sequence of change is not ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE, but rather SEE-FEEL-CHANGE. You’re presented with evidence that makes you feel something. It might be a disturbing look at the problem, or a helpful glimpse of the solution, or a sobering reflection of your current habits, but regardless, it’s something that hits you at the emotional level. It’s something that speaks to the Elephant.”
“Being a certified nerd, I always used to start with making the math work. I have learned the math does need to work, but sometimes motivation is more important than math. This is one of those times.. Face it, if you go on a diet and lose weight the first week, you will stay on that diet. If you go on a diet and gain weight or go six weeks with no visible progress, you will quit. … When you start the ‘Debt Snowball’ and in the first few days pay off a couple of little debts, trust me, it lights your fire. I don’t care if you have a master’s degree in psychology; you need quick wins to get fired up. And getting fired up is super important.” Dave Ramsey
“Most financial advisers recommend that their clients pay down high-interest debt first... But Ramsey’s not trying to solve an optimization problem; he’s trying to solve an Elephant problem.”
Former UCLA coach John Wooden, one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time, once said, "When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur...Don't look for the quick, big improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That's the only way it happens -- and when it happens, it lasts."
“In the identity model of decision making, we essentially ask ourselves three basic questions when we have a decision to make: Who am I? What kind of situation is this? What would someone like me do in this situation?”
“It's critical to realize that these identity stories aren't just special case situations, confined to scientists or nurses or St. Lucians. Identity is going to play a role in nearly every change situation. Even yours. When you think about the people whose behavior needs to change, ask yourself whether they would agree with this statement: 'I aspire to be the kind of person who would make this change.' If their answer is yes, that's an enormous factor in your favor. If their answer is no, then you'll have to work hard to show them that they should aspire to a different self-image.”
“…people are receptive to developing new identities, that identities "grow" from small beginnings.”
“That’s the paradox of the growth mindset. Although it seems to draw attention to failure, and in fact encourages us to seek out failure, it is unflaggingly optimistic. We will struggle, we will fail, we will be knocked down - but throughout, we'll get better, and we'll succeed in the end.”
“The growth mindset, then is a buffer against defeatism. It reframes failure as a natural part of the change process. And that's critical because people will persevere only if they perceive falling down as learning rather than as failing."
“In the new system, the students couldn't stop until they'd cleared the bar. "We define up front to the kids what's an A, B, and C," said Howard. "If they do substandard work, the teacher will say, 'Not Yet.'… That gives them the mindset: My teacher thinks I can do better. It changes their expectations.”
“Howard transformed her students. She cultivated a new identity in them. You're all college-bound students. Then she flipped Jefferson from a fixed-mindset school to a growth-mindset school. She believed that every student was capable of doing acceptable work, that no student was doomed to failure. There's no "never" at Jefferson anymore, only a "Not Yet."
“Over the past few chapters, we’ve seen that the central challenges of change is keeping the elephant moving forward. Whereas the rider needs direction, the elephant needs motivation. And we’ve seen that motivate comes from feeling- knowledge isn’t enough to motivate change. But motivation also comes from confidence. The elephant has to believe that it’s capable of conquering the change. And there are two routes to building people’s confidence so that they feel “big” relative to their challenge. You can shrink the change or grow your people (or, preferably, both).”
Fundamental Attribution Error: "The error lies in our inclination to attribute people's behavior to the way they are rather than to the situation they are in.”
“The leaders of the IT group decided to try an experiment. They established "quiet hours" on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings before noon. The goal was to give coders a sterile cockpit, allowing them to tackle more complex bits of coding without being derailed by periodic interruptions. Even the socially insensitive responded well to the change in the Path. One engineer, previously among the worst interrupters, said, “I always used to worry about my own quiet time and how to get more of it, but this experiment made me think about how I’m impacting others.”
“In the end, the group managed to meet its stringent nine-month development goal. And the division VP attributed the success to the sterile cockpit quiet hours: “I do not think we could’ve made the deadline without it,” he said. “This is a new benchmark.”
“Instant habits. This is a rare point of intersection between the aspirations of self-help and the reality of science. And you can't get much more practical. The next time your team resolves to act in a new way, challenge team members to take it further. Have them specify when and where they are going to put the plan in motion. Get them to set an action trigger.”
“As Amy Sutherland studied the exotic-animal trainers, she had an epiphany: She wondered what would happen if she used these techniques on that ‘stubborn but lovable species, the American husband.’ The article ‘What Shamu Taught Me About A Happy Marriage,’ became the most e-mailed article on the Times website in 2006, and it led to a book on the same topic.”
“’With Scott the husband, I began to praise every small act every time: if he drove just a mile an hour slower, tossed one pair of shorts into the hamper, or was on time for anything.’ And Scott, basking in the appreciation, began to change.”…
“Reinforcement is the secret to getting past the first step of your long journey and on to the second, third, and hundredth steps. And that’s a problem, because most of us are terrible reinforcers. We are quicker to grouse than to praise.”
“Change isn't an event; it's a process… There is no moment when a child learns to walk… To lead a process requires persistence.”
“We can say this much with confidence: When change works, it tends to follow a pattern. The people who change have clear direction, ample motivation, and a supportive environment. In other words, when change works, it's because the Rider, the Elephant, and the Path are all aligned in support of the switch.” ( )
  dannywahlquist | May 14, 2013 |
Great book. Amazing insights into the psychology of decision-making and why our attempts at change tend to fail. A clear look at why and how change can succeed. ( )
  MattP225 | Apr 27, 2013 |
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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.
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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.… (more)

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