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

The Core of the Matter

  • In most change situations, managers initially focus on strategy, structure, culture, or systems. This misses the most important issue, which is how to change people’s behavior. To do this you need to influence emotions, not just thought. Analysis works best when parameters are known, assumptions are minimal, and the future is not fuzzy. Big change situations aren’t like this. Successful change efforts are more likely to feature the sequence of See-Feel-Change rather than Analyze-Think-Change. Trying to fight inertia and indifference with analytical arguments is like tossing a fire extinguisher to someone who’s drowning. The solution doesn’t match the problem.

Shrink the Change

  • People find it more motivating to be partly finished with a longer journey than to be at the starting gate. A business cliche commands us to raise the bar. If you want to motivate the Elephant, however, you need to lower the bar. Small targets lead to small victories and can often trigger a positive spiral of behavior. In this chapter, the Heaths tell several stories about how it is easier to motivate people if they think they are already on the way. They also tout the need to make small advances visible and to help the people doing the change to recognize what the next step looks like. It is also vital to focus on things that are under your control.

The Importance of Identities

  • When people make choices they either assess the costs and benefits and make a rational decision, or they ask themselves who they are and what they will do in a given situation. The former is the consequences model and the latter is the identity model. Our identities are adopted as we move through life. New identities can grow from small beginnings. Because identities are central to the way people make decisions, any change effort that violates someone’s identity is likely doomed to failure. (Doug: When you are trying to make a change, consider what you know about the identities of the people you are trying to change. If the change isn’t consistent with their identities, you need to alter their identities, alter the nature of the change, or alter the people.)

Mindset Matters

  • Carol Dweck at Stanford is the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. See my summary here. She refers to the two basic mindsets as the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. If you have a fixed mindset you tend to avoid challenges for fear of being seen as a failure by others. You are also threatened by negative feedback. People with a growth mindset accept more challenges despite the risk of failure. Failure is seen as a natural part of the change process. Such people succeed as they see failure as part of the learning process. When given negative feedback they think my teacher thinks I can do better. The lesson for teachers is to praise effort rather than natural skill. Students need to see their brains as muscles that can be strengthened with the right kind of practice.
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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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