- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Random House Canada; Reprint Edition edition (February 16, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307357279
- ISBN-13: 978-0307357274
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 964 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,746,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard Hardcover – International Edition, February 16, 2010
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About the Author
CHIP HEATH is a professor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. He lives in Los Gatos, California. DAN HEATH is a senior fellow at Duke University's Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE). Previously, he was a researcher and case writer at Harvard Business School, as well as the cofounder of a college textbook publishing firm called Thinkwell. Dan lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Heath brothers write a monthly column for Fast Company magazine.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The Three Surprises About Change
One Saturday in 2000, some unsuspecting moviegoers showed up at a suburban theater in Chicago to catch a 1:05 p.m. matinee of Mel Gibson's action flick Payback. They were handed a soft drink and a free bucket of popcorn and were asked to stick around after the movie to answer a few questions about the concession stand. These movie fans were unwitting participants in a study of irrational eating behavior.
There was something unusual about the popcorn they received. It was wretched. In fact, it had been carefully engineered to be wretched. It had been popped five days earlier and was so stale that it squeaked when you ate it. One moviegoer later compared it to Styrofoam packing peanuts, and two others, forgetting that they'd received the popcorn for free, demanded their money back.
Some of them got their free popcorn in a medium-size bucket,and others got a large bucket - the sort of huge tub that looks like it might once have been an above-ground swimming pool. Every person got a bucket so there’d be no need to share. The researchers responsible for the study were interested in a simple question: Would the people with bigger buckets eat more?
Both buckets were so big that none of the moviegoers could finish their individual portions. So the actual research question was a bit more specific: Would somebody with a larger inexhaustible supply of popcorn eat more than someone with a smaller inexhaustible supply?
The sneaky researchers weighed the buckets before and after the movie, so they were able to measure precisely how much popcorn each person ate. The results were stunning: People with the large buckets ate 53 percent more popcorn than people with the medium size. That's the equivalent of 173 more calories and approximately 21 extra hand-dips into the bucket.
Brian Wansink, the author of the study, runs the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, and he described the results in his book Mindless Eating: "We've run other popcorn studies, and the results were always the same, however we tweaked the details. It didn't matter if our moviegoers were in Pennsylvania, Illinois, or Iowa, and it didn't matter what kind of movie was showing; all of our popcorn studies led to the same conclusion. People eat more when you give them a bigger container. Period."
No other theory explains the behavior. These people weren't eating for pleasure. (The popcorn was so stale it squeaked!) They weren't driven by a desire to finish their portion. (Both buckets were too big to finish.) It didn't matter whether they were hungry or full. The equation is unyielding: Bigger container = more eating.
Best of all, people refused to believe the results. After the movie, the researchers told the moviegoers about the two bucket sizes and the findings of their past research. The researchers asked, Do you think you ate more because of the larger size? The majority scoffed at the idea, saying, "Things like that don't trick me," or, "I'm pretty good at knowing when I'm full."
Imagine that someone showed you the data from the popcorn-eating study but didn't mention the bucket sizes. On your data summary, you could quickly scan the results and see how much popcorn different people ate—some people ate a little, some ate a lot, and some seemed to be testing the physical limits of the human stomach. Armed with a data set like that, you would find it easy to jump to conclusions. Some people are Reasonable Snackers, and others are Big Gluttons.
A public-health expert, studying that data alongside you, would likely get very worried about the Gluttons. We need to motivate these people to adopt healthier snacking behaviors! Let's find ways to show them the health hazards of eating so much!
But wait a second. If you want people to eat less popcorn, the solution is pretty simple: Give them smaller buckets. You don’t have to worry about their knowledge or their attitudes.
You can see how easy it would be to turn an easy change problem (shrinking people's buckets) into a hard change problem (convincing people to think differently). And that's the first surprise about change: What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.
This is a book to help you change things. We consider change at every level - individual, organizational, and societal. Maybe you want to help your brother beat his gambling addiction. Maybe you need your team at work to act more frugally because of market conditions. Maybe you wish more of your neighbors would bike to work.
Usually these topics are treated separately - there is "change management" advice for executives and "self-help" advice for individuals and "change the world" advice for activists. That's a shame, because all change efforts have something in common: For anything to change, someone has to start acting differently. Your brother has got to stay out of the casino; your employees have got to start booking coach fares. Ultimately, all change efforts boil down to the same mission: Can you get people to start behaving in a new way?
We know what you're thinking - people resist change. But it's not quite that easy. Babies are born every day to parents who, inexplicably, welcome the change. Think about the sheer magnitude of that change! Would anyone agree to work for a boss who'd wake you up twice a night, screaming, for trivial administrative duties? (And what if, every time you wore a new piece of clothing, the boss spit up on it?) Yet people don't resist this massive change - they volunteer for it.
In our lives, we embrace lots of big changes - not only babies, but marriages and new homes and new technologies and new job duties. Meanwhile, other behaviors are maddeningly intractable. Smokers keep smoking and kids grow fatter and your husband can't ever seem to get his dirty shirts into a hamper.
So there are hard changes and easy changes. What distinguishes one from the other? In this book, we argue that successful changes share a common pattern. They require the leader of the change to do three things at once. We've already mentioned one of those three things: To change someone's behavior, you've got to change that person's situation.
The situation isn't the whole game, of course. You can send an alcoholic to rehab, where the new environment will help him go dry. But what happens when he leaves and loses that influence? You might see a boost in productivity from your sales reps when the sales manager shadows them, but what happens afterward when the situation returns to normal? For individuals’ behavior to change, you've got to influence not only their environment but their hearts and minds.
The problem is this: Often the heart and mind disagree. Fervently.
Consider the Clocky, an alarm clock invented by an MIT student, Gauri Nanda. It's no ordinary alarm clock - it has wheels. You set it at night, and in the morning when the alarm goes off, it rolls off your nightstand and scurries around the room, forcing you to chase it down. Picture the scene: You're crawling around the bedroom in your underwear, stalking and cursing a runaway clock.
Clocky ensures that you won't snooze-button your way to disaster. And apparently that's a common fear, since about 35,000 units were purchased, at $50 each, in Clocky's first two years on the market (despite minimal marketing).
The success of this invention reveals a lot about human psychology. What it shows, fundamentally, is that we are schizophrenic. Part of us - our rational side - wants to get up at 5:45 a.m., allowing ourselves plenty of time for a quick jog before we leave for the office. The other part of us - the emotional side - wakes up in the darkness of the early morning, snoozing inside a warm cocoon of sheets and blankets, and wants nothing in the world so much as a few more minutes of sleep. If, like us, your emotional side tends to win these internal debates, then you might be a potential Clocky customer. The beauty of the device is that it allows your rational side to outsmart your emotional side. It's simply impossible to stay cuddled up under the covers when a rogue alarm clock is rolling around your room.
Let's be blunt here: Clocky is not a product for a sane species. If Spock wants to get up at 5:45 a.m., he'll just get up. No drama required.
Our built-in schizophrenia is a deeply weird thing, but we don't think much about it because we're so used to it. When we kick off a new diet, we toss the Cheetos and Oreos out of the pantry, because our rational side knows that when our emotional side gets a craving, there's no hope of self-control. The only option is to remove the temptation altogether. (For the record, some MIT student will make a fortune designing Cheetos that scurry away from people when they're on a diet.)
The unavoidable conclusion is this: Your brain isn't of one mind.
The conventional wisdom in psychology, in fact, is that the brain has two independent systems at work at all times. First, there's what we called the emotional side. It's the part of you that is instinctive, that feels pain and pleasure. Second, there's the rational side, also known as the reflective or conscious system. It's the part of you that deliberates and analyzes and looks into the future.
In the past few decades, psychologists have learned a lot about these two systems, but of course mankind has always been aware of the tension. Plato said that in our heads we have a rational charioteer who has to rein in an unruly horse that "barely yields to horsewhip and goad combined." Freud wrote about the selfish id and the conscientious superego (and also about the ego, which mediates between them). More recently, behavioral economists dubbed the two systems the Planner and the Doer.
But, to us, the duo's tension is captured best by an analogy used by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt in his wonderful book The Happiness Hypothesis. Haidt says that our emotional side is an Elephant and our rational side is its Rider. Perched atop the Elephant, the Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the Rider's control is precarious because the Rider is so small relative to the Elephant. Anytime the six-ton Elephant and the Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose. He's completely overmatched.
Most of us are all too familiar with situations in which our Elephant overpowers our Rider. You've experienced this if you've ever slept in, overeaten, dialed up your ex at midnight, procrastinated, tried to quit smoking and failed, skipped the gym, gotten angry and said something you regretted, abandoned your Spanish or piano lessons, refused to speak up in a meeting because you were scared, and so on. Good thing no one is keeping score.
The weakness of the Elephant, our emotional and instinctive side, is clear: It's lazy and skittish, often looking for the quick payoff (ice cream cone) over the long-term payoff (being thin). When change efforts fail, it’s usually the Elephant's fault, since the kinds of change we want typically involve short-term sacrifices for longterm payoffs. (We cut back on expenses today to yield a better balance sheet next year. We avoid ice cream today for a better body next year.) Changes often fail because the Rider simply can’t keep the Elephant on the road long enough to reach the destination.
The Elephant's hunger for instant gratification is the opposite of the Rider's strength, which is the ability to think long-term, to plan, to think beyond the moment (all those things that your pet can't do).
But what may surprise you is that the Elephant also has enormous strengths and that the Rider has crippling weaknesses. The Elephant isn't always the bad guy. Emotion is the Elephant's turf - love and compassion and sympathy and loyalty. That fierce instinct you have to protect your kids against harm - that's the Elephant. That spine-stiffening you feel when you need to stand up for yourself - that's the Elephant.
And even more important if you're contemplating a change, the Elephant is the one who gets things done. To make progress toward a goal, whether it's noble or crass, requires the energy and drive of the Elephant. And this strength is the mirror image of the Rider's great weakness: spinning his wheels. The Rider tends to overanalyze and overthink things. Chances are, you know people with Rider problems: your friend who can agonize for twenty minutes about what to eat for dinner; your colleague who can brainstorm about new ideas for hours but can't ever seem to make a decision.
If you want to change things, you've got to appeal to both. The Rider provides the planning and direction, and the Elephant provides the energy. So if you reach the Riders of your team but not the Elephants, team members will have understanding without motivation. If you reach their Elephants but not their Riders, they'll have passion without direction. In both cases, the flaws can be paralyzing. A reluctant Elephant and a wheel-spinning Rider can both ensure that nothing changes. But when Elephants and Riders move together, change can come easily.
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If you deal with change in any aspect of your life -- this is an excellent book. If you think you *don't* deal with change -- you're probably not paying attention!
The book is organized into eleven chapters in three parts: Part 1, Direct the Rider; Part 2, Motivate the Elephant; and Part 3, Shape the Path. The titles come from a vivid metaphor by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt. In his book, The Happiness Hypothesis, Haidt likens a person to a rider on an elephant. The rider is the rational side of a person: the part that tells him to eat better, exercise more, and stop procrastinating, for example. The elephant is the emotional side that doesn't want to work to lose weight or exercise and would rather stay put; let's say willpower vs. won't-power; but why should that be? Whatever is autonomous and ingrained by habit belongs to the elephant. The rider is theoretically in control, but it is exhausting to continually tug on the reins and direct the stubborn elephant. Eventually the rider relents and the elephant goes back to doing what he's always done. Sound familiar?
Before going much farther, you should know that two things separate Switch from so many other glib books about change: first, the book has a very solid psychological basis. Despite its accessible style, scores of major psychological findings and studies are reported and undergird the book's practical formulae for change. Second, Switch is not a self-help book. I have no doubt that the book could be used in this way, but it is really a book about how to change things. It is primarily directed toward organizational change, though its principles are much broader. And there are many surprises.
The first big surprise occurs in the very first chapter.
"We know what you're thinking -- people resist change. But it's not quite that easy. Babies are born every day to parents who, inexplicably, welcome that change. Yet people don't resist this massive change -- they volunteer for it. In our lives we embrace lots of big changes. So there are hard changes and there are easy changes. What distinguishes one from the other?"
And the surprises keep coming. Like the two researchers who dramatically and permanently got folks to reduce their saturated fat intake. Or the doctor who saved over 100,000 lives and counting in American hospitals on schedule (18 months) by getting thousands of doctors and organizations to change their practices. Or the American who went to Vietnam and changed the face of malnutrition. Or the student who saved an endangered species in a Caribbean country that didn't give two hoots about it.
What do all these stories have in common? For one, none of these change agents had the sufficient budget or authority to succeed; yet, they did. How? Every one of them gave clear rational direction to the rider by finding the bright spots, scripting the critical moves, and clearly pointing to the end goal. All of them motivated the elephant by emotionally connecting with it, and they shrunk the apparent change by carefully communicating progress. They refused to underestimate their people. Instead they provided them with a newfound identity that let them to grow into the challenge. But there was more.
As the authors note, many times what looks like resistance is really confusion or even the result of misaligned incentives. That's why the path needs to be shaped by making manageable changes to the environment, building sound habits, rallying the herd, and reinforcing the new habit until it becomes a way of life.
Well, maybe that sounds like a lot of work. I think it is. But speaking from firsthand experience, it will be a labor of love. And if your heart is not in the change and you do not think you can derive reward from the process, perhaps you are selling yourself short -- or, maybe you're the wrong person to lead the change and you should stop kidding yourself. And perhaps that is what I like most about this book. It does not promise a panacea. It tells it like it is without the jingoism that has become the substance of many change management essays. If you are leading organizational change, the book will provide a solid prescription for achieving lasting results because Switch uses real research, reports real experiences, and provides real guidance. Here, my recommendation is enthusiastic.
Are you responsible for some change in your company but don’t really have the power to make that change? Maybe you’re in charge but the entrenched ethic/patterns are totally contrary to the change that needs to be made?
This is the book for you.
Chip and Dan Heath explore how many organizations made the Rider (our thinking brain) and the Elephant (our feeling brain) both adopt a change. You’ll see this 2 brain thinking explored in other books like Thinking, Fast and Slow.
In Switch Chip and Dan assert that our Rider is going to generally go where the Elephant wants to. With great effort it can overpower the Elephant for a short time (like when I swear off cookies) but eventually the much more powerful Elephant will win as the Rider gets tired.
Switch doesn’t claim to give you all the answers to make effective change at your organization, it does give you lots of great stories and examples of how others made change and then pulls out practical application you can use to help make changes in your organization.
One of the best takeaways is to make change easy. Don’t give a big overarching change policy. Give clear concise easy to carry out directions. If you’re looking to cut short term costs because you have no money maybe that direction is “We’ll always choose the cheapest option even if the long term cost is more”.
With that direction all purchasers have a clear direction when making any purchasing decision.
There are many more great takeaways in Switch and I highly recommend you read it.
"Switch" is a blueprint to change. Any change. In any environment. The book is condensed wisdom on how to change. It's deeply rooted in psychology, yet written in a simple, effective language so anybody could understand and apply it.
"Switch" gives you not only theory but also real life examples of people changing when change is hard.
If you want to change something in your life - the "Switch" is your ultimate guide.