Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

A very practical book!  Change can be overwhelming and difficult.  How to move forward?

The authors begin by reminding us that our brains are made up of essentially two different parts - they quip, you are "not of one mind."  There is the Rider and the Elephant.  The Rider represents our rational, thinking side, and the Elephant represents our emotional side. (picture a human rider on top of a very large, strong-willed elephant!) The Rider is the brains of the operation, obviously, but the Elephant is not easily controlled or persuaded by the Rider's limited powers.  Both must be on board for change to occur.  Self-control is an exhaustible resource - so the emotional motivation for the behavioral change must join the rational motivation quickly!

If you want change to happen you must...
Direct the Rider, Motivate the Elephant, and Shape the Path.

Direct the Rider - explain the why and importance and rationale behind the change.
Motivate the Elephant - if someone's heart is not in the change, it simply won't happen, no matter how clearly you explain the vision.
Shape the Path - Clear instructions and steps are needed.  Ambiguity is the enemy of change.

Perhaps the most impacting part of this book was the section that describes how to "shape the path."  I was already familiar with the need for both rational and emotional motivation to move toward change - but the idea that people (including self!) need crystal-clear direction to change was very practical for me.

For example...instead of saying: "eat healthier," say "choose 1% milk instead of whole milk."  Both instructions are based on the same idea, but one gives a concrete action that is easy to remember.  

The phrase "Script the change" kept reoccurring.  What is the change you want to see?  How can you make that change easier?  What specific steps can be laid out in a clear fashion to give direction?  "Ambiguity is exhausting to the Rider, because the Rider is tugging on the reins of the Elephant, trying to direct the Elephant down a new path.  But when the road is uncertain, the Elephant will insist on taking the default path, the most familiar path...why?  Because uncertainty makes the Elephant anxious."  - page 53

"Ambiguity is the enemy.  Any successful change requires a translation of ambiguous goals into concrete behaviors.  In short, to make a switch, you need to script the critical moves." - p. 53  "When you want someone to behave in a new way, explain the 'new way' clearly.  Don't assume the new moves are obvious."  p. 60

"Until you can ladder your way down from a change idea to a specific behavior, you're not ready to lead a switch."  p. 63  "Clarity dissolves resistance." p. 72

There is a great deal of good advice in this book - but my main take away is to SCRIPT change...not control, but clarify and set simple steps that makes the path to a new vision something that people will not only want to do but know HOW to do it!

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