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

The Problem Might Be the Environment

  • What looks like a people problem is often a situation or environment problem. You will often have more control over changing the situation than changing the people. Tweaking the environment might make the right behaviors a little bit easier. In terms of the Rider and Elephant metaphor, the environment is the Path they have to take. This chapter contains a number of excellent examples of how people were able to use this key understanding to make important changes without having to change core characteristics of the people involved.

Habits are Important

  • Habits are essentially behavioral autopilot. The right habits can allow lots of good behaviors to happen without the Rider taking charge. It’s a huge plus if some things happen free on autopilot. Habits will form inevitably, whether they’re formed intentionally or not. The Heaths discuss action triggers as ways to help instill the right habits. They are procedures that are specific and visible so as to interrupt people’s normal stream of consciousness. Imagining a time and place where you’ll do something increases the likelihood that you’ll actually do it. Action triggers can serve to create instant habits. Humble checklists can also serve to get things done. They provide insurance against overconfidence, which we all have a knack for.

Herd Mentality

  • People look to each other for cues as to how to behave in ambiguous situations. A lot of what you do is due to the behavior of others, also known as peer pressure. Behavior is contagious. This even includes obesity and drinking. Change agents need to pay attention to social signals. They can guarantee or doom your efforts. If the Elephant is on an unfamiliar path, chances are it’s going to follow the herd. When people see data that makes them look like poor performers, they are likely to do something about it. This is why it is good to publish group norms. In some cases, you can make undesirable behavior seem comical or otherwise undesirable. You also need to create free space for your reformers and add new language to the culture.

In Conclusion

  • When you see even small changes in the desired direction, you have to reinforce them. This is how animal trainers work and it even can work on husbands. Change isn’t an event, its a process. Once a change is started, it can feed on itself. People can also learn to like things they are exposed to if they are around long enough. The people in Paris didn’t like the Eiffel Tower at first. At some point, inertia will shift from resisting the change to supporting it. Small changes can snowball into big changes. When change works it follows a pattern. Provide clear direction, ample motivation, and a supportive environment. This aligns the Rider, the Elephant, and the Path.
  • In addition to all of the cool stories and research, this book contains a treasure chest of resources to help people who wish to lead change efforts. There are also directions to additional online resources. Even though its a 2010 book, it will remain current for many more years. Thanks Chip and Dan.
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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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