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

Self-Control is an Exhaustible Resource

  • Research shows that we burn up self-control. When people try to change things, they’re usually tinkering with behaviors that have become automatic. The bigger the change you’re suggesting, the more it will sap people’s self-control. Change is hard because people wear themselves out. The second surprise is that what looks like laziness is often exhaustion. People are more likely to change when the new behavior is crystal clear. Telling someone to “eat a healthier diet” is anything but clear. What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. To change behavior, you have to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path.

Direct the Rider

  • Without clear direction the Rider can suffer from analysis paralysis. When you are trying to create a plan for change, look for the bright spots. If any small part of the behavior in question is working, ask yourself, how can we do more of it? At the same time, you need to avoid sifting through a lot of true but useless (TBU) information that distracts you from looking for the bright spots. Ask what’s working, and how can we do more of it? Avoid what’s broke, and how do we fix it? The problem with our language is that it contains more negative emotion words, and when it comes to what grabs our attention, bad is stronger than good.

The Status Quo is Comfortable

  • 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. Ambiguity is the enemy. If it seems abstract it has no place in a change program. Any successful change requires a translation of ambiguous goals into concrete behaviors. To make a switch, you need to script the critical moves. You can’t script every move, however, so focus on those that are vital to success. Clarity dissolves resistance. It is also important to focus on what you can control.

Big Hairy Audacious Goals are Good

  • The setting of big, motivating, long-term goals sets the more successful companies apart from those that are less successful. When you specify a compelling destination, you’re helping to correct one of the Rider’s greatest weaknesses – the tendency to get lost in analysis. The Heaths call these visions destination postcards. Such visions of the future that can be produced by hard work can be inspiring.
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2 Responses to “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath”

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