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Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard Hardcover – February 16, 2010
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"Change is hard." "People hate change." Those were two of the most common quotes we heard when we began to study change.
But it occurred to us that if people hate change, they have a funny way of showing it. Every iPhone sold serves as counter-evidence. So does every text message sent, every corporate merger finalized, every aluminum can recycled. And we haven’t even mentioned the biggest changes: Getting married. Having kids. (If people hate change, then having a kid is an awfully dumb decision.)
It puzzled us--why do some huge changes, like marriage, come joyously, while some trivial changes, like submitting an expense report on time, meet fierce resistance?
We found the answer in the research of some brilliant psychologists who’d discovered that people have two separate “systems” in their brains—a rational system and an emotional system. The rational system is a thoughtful, logical planner. The emotional system is, well, emotional—and impulsive and instinctual.
When these two systems are in alignment, change can come quickly and easily (as when a dreamy-eyed couple gets married). When they’re not, change can be grueling (as anyone who has struggled with a diet can attest).
In those situations where change is hard, is it possible to align the two systems? Is it possible to overcome our internal "schizophrenia" about change? We believe it is.
In our research, we studied people trying to make difficult changes: People fighting to lose weight and keep it off. Managers trying to overhaul an entrenched bureaucracy. Activists combatting seemingly intractable problems such as child malnutrition. They succeeded--and, to our surprise, we found striking similarities in the strategies they used. They seemed to share a similar game plan. We wanted, in Switch, to make that game plan available to everyone, in hopes that we could show people how to make the hard changes in life a little bit easier. --Chip and Dan Heath
(Photo © Amy Surdacki)
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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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!
"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.
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.
Top international reviews
Whether you are trying to give up smoking, trying to go to the gym more or part of a corporate change program, the book “Switch” should help you.
Switch provides you with the mind tools and techniques needed to change, or help people with the steps needed to make changes. Switch also has case studies as examples, which also explain how the tools and techniques mentioned earlier in the book can be applied and the results obtained.
A hugely useful and relevant book for today's ever change business world.
I understand much clearer why 'head office' had declared dramatic changes and nothings happened and how inspirational Area Managers say one sentence and its motivated the whole team. Now I can do the same for my own little posse and hope to gain their full backing for changes I want to make.
Personally, I feel there is a clearer path towards gaining a happy and more fulfilled life; how I can inspire a teenager to tidy their room or do the washing up, how I can achieve chores without it being a chore, or even how I can exercise more without the excuses - now that is worth the book price in its own right!
You shouldn't just read this book, you should digest and think and revisit. You should give yourself time to make notes, set a plan and try a new way of living/working.
The writing style is understandable, humorous and thought provoking.
On the level of entertainment the book is similar to Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance . The book has amusing quips and turns of phrase that lightens the subject matter from that of a text book. Yet the book is fully referenced with study, research and quotation information, should the reader wish to get into more depth. I know that some people who read these reviews have already read the book and are curious about what other people think. Therefore I will list some of my personal highlights of the book. I hope for those considering the book it will also ignite curiosity. I liked exhaustible self control, 424 gloves, 1% milk. Bright spots. A husband forgets his wife's birthday. Miner county. No dry holes. Where did you find six dumb people? Attila the accountant. Rock bottom. The burning platform. Loyalty cards. 5 minute room rescue. Money makeover. A miracle scale. Brasilata. Safe driving. Fundamental Attribution Error. Saints and jerks. Sterile cockpit. Mike Romano. The humble checklist. Designated driver. Fataki the sugar-daddy. The skateboarding monkey. I hope this gives you an idea of the way that an amusing anecdote becomes a powerful and memorable learning.
The variety of these techniques is best appreciated at the end of the book. There is a summary of change-making examples at the end of the book changing the book into a manual for change rather than just a passive read. The authors summarize all the techniques you could deploy, if you haven't just skipped to the end. It is a great reminder that this is not just a collection of stories or examples but part of a collection of strategies that are repeatable in your own context. This book contains a perfect recipe for turning what is and what could be from fantasy to reality.
It is written in an easily accessible style, and strikes a good balance between the formal and informal approach. Personally, I felt it was possibly a little long, and it wasn't a book that 'grabbed' me as some others have. However, the information contained in its pages is worth the investment, and touches onto areas of social and behavioural psychology outside of its core remit of bringing about change. It is a highly practical book, clearly written for an audience who are movers and shakers themselves.
One thing to note is that the book takes the professional and ethical approach to manipulating others, so don't expect clever NLP routines to bamboozle your friends into doing what you want: this is a book about changing workplaces, businesses, groups and governments, and doing so for the long-term. It is not a book of quick-fixes by any means. But this is good, as it shows that the authors are treating their subject seriously, and regard change as something that needs buy-in from all involved, not be force-fed to a reluctant or unaware audience. Derren Brown this is not.
I would recommend this book to anyone who works in or with an establishment which seems reluctant to "understand" or "appreciate" why change is necessary. You will learn that usually it is not the people who are at fault, but the collective situation they find themselves in. Then the book will teach you how to address that.
Everyone should read this book. It has strategies that I will return to time and time again.
The brothers wrote this book brilliantly and I already have The Power it Moments’ which is next on my list to read.
The goal setting discussed (such as black and white goals that focuses the group on the task at hand) and following the brightspots, looking at what works and how it can be cloned rather than focusing relentlessly on what is 'wrong' are tools I have adapted into my own working life. I also loved other areas such as really demonstrating the issue (they give an example where an organization had many suppliers of rubber gloves and instead of doing a presentation to the board someone got a pair of gloves to represent every supplier and dumped the lot on the boardroom table. It just echos: this must change
There are frequent check points for you to try apply the logic to an example as well as a summary section at the back (although it makes no sense if you haven't read the book, so don't think you can just skip to it!). This is a good book and regardless of your background or interest in change you will finish with a great set of approaches that everyone can understand without the all the usual acronyms and certifications that usually surround the topic.
We get advice on how to 'shrink the change', 'change the situation' and acquire a 'growth mindset'. I was particularly pleased to read how Chip and Dan failed to master salsa because they claimed they just weren't suited to it. I wasn't either but I became a competent dancer by going to lessons every week for over four years! This book has really inspired me and will come in very handy in my work as a speechwriter.
It helps you to see that an answer to how you can change something can be right there in front of you but you wouldn't realise it until you know how to approach the situation differently.
I found this book very interesting and im likely to go back to read over certain parts of it again.
The book was quick and easy to read, and very helpful as a way of thinking about possible organizational changes, both for the theory they introduce as well as the examples they present. I would certainly recommend the book to anyone who desires to make a cultural change to their organization (as most of us do, I suspect), as well as to anyone interested in decision-making in general, though the book itself is very applied.
The book is light-hearted in tone, but makes many serious points which can be applied to organisations and individuals.
This book is a great read for those who need to lead and implement change in challenging environments, whether you are a parent, teacher or business manager.