Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

I spend a LOT of time in the car.  One way I’ve found of converting the uselessness of sitting in a car into somewhat less useless time is to listen to audio books.

The most recent read has been a book called Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. I got so much out of it I have actually gone back and begun to read it a second time and take more notes. This one introduces a lot of nifty ideas about how to initiate change in many different aspects of life, giving real-world no-nonsense examples. Good read.

Stop Belittling Change

Change happens all the time.  Unfortunately many people are resistant to change.  In Switch the authors present a few simple strategies to help guide people through change in a successful way, from simple business goals to protecting the survival of a species.

My biggest takeaway from this book was to stop trying to reduce change to something insignificant, and instead to embrace that it’s a big deal for people.  Such a big deal, in fact, that Change is likened to getting a person riding an elephant to change directions.  While not discussed such terms in the book, I think to take this view is as compassionate as it is strategic.  Once on board with the idea that — yes — change is a big deal for people.  How would we handle a big problem.  That requires a different approach altogether.

Get The People On Board

Step one is getting people to understand that this is the way we want to go.  If a guy doesn’t really see any value in changing direction, what are you going to do?  I mean, he’s riding an elephant after all.  Get this part wrong and you’ll be a squishy spot on the pavement.  People need to understand what we’re doing, why it matters, and how it will make life better.  Even then they may not like it but if they can agree that it is the right thing to do you’re headed on your way.

Change The Vision

The next step involves demonstrating the value of the change in a desirable way.  The authors call this Motivating the Elephant.  In other words, giving the elephant a reason to want to go the direction the rider is telling it to go.  This might mean changing opinion of a brand, making the change smaller or more incremental, or investing time and effort into maturing people around the change to the point they can accept it.  Once you’ve modified general opinion of the change, and made the change as palatable to the masses as possible, an often overlooked fact is that some people need special attention to mature to the point they can move in the new direction.

Make Change Suck Less

The final step toward success centers around making the change easier to achieve.  In most areas there’s a place and time when each person has to make a decision between two or more options, where one of those options reflects the change you’re trying to achieve, and the others do not.  If you can help people more easily and naturally make the right decision on their own at that specific point, the change becomes a success and everyone wins.

Let’s say you’re in a factory where people are injuring themselves on a piece of equipment.  You could simply give them instructions on how to operate it safely, but that’s not as good as making it nearly impossible to operate the machinery unsafely.  For example, perhaps the machine won’t turn on as long as people are nearby, or until everyone is wearing proper safety gear.  In nearly every case there is a way to make the right choice easier, and the wrong choice less prominent.

This book makes a lot of sense, and although very simple to understand takes real practice and savvy to follow.  I believe this is one book that will help you flip the switch for positive results.


Switch, By Chip Heath and Dan Heath (Amazon)


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