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Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard Hardcover – February 16, 2010
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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Chip Heath and Dan Heath on Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
"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
The Heath brothers (coauthors of Made to Stick) address motivating employees, family members, and ourselves in their analysis of why we too often fear change. Change is not inherently frightening, but our ability to alter our habits can be complicated by the disjunction between our rational and irrational minds: the self that wants to be swimsuit-season ready and the self that acquiesces to another slice of cake anyway. The trick is to find the balance between our powerful drives and our reason. The authors' lessons are backed up by anecdotes that deal with such things as new methods used to reform abusive parents, the revitalization of a dying South Dakota town, and the rebranding of megastore Target. Through these lively examples, the Heaths speak energetically and encouragingly on how to modify our behaviors and businesses. This clever discussion is an entertaining and educational must-read for executives and for ordinary citizens looking to get out of a rut. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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The first thing that will catch you with this book is the attractive cover. It's one of the better ones I have seen in a while and when you notice the cover, you certainly will want to pick it up and read it. I bought this book because I needed to basically overhaul my life at 28 years of age. I want to change but I didn't know why change was not happening in my life despite all of my good intentions.
The Heath brothers argue that change can be visualized by three components working together in harmony. You have the rider, the elephant, and the path. The rider represents the idea of change, the elephant is the motivation and the emotional side of the change, and the path is our environment regarding the change. For a change to occur, you have to visualize the rider and the elephant happily strolling down the desired path to the goal. Change will not occur when the elephant won't move, when the rider can't control and direct him, and if the path is not clear, or is undefined. I thought this was an interesting metaphor. You, as the rider, may want to make a change but if you are not motivated or you can't get other people motivated, the elephant won't move and change will not happen. If you do have the motivation, you need to make sure that your environment is conducive to this change or else the idea will not go anywhere or worse, someplace undesired. A basic example would be like this...You need to lose weight(rider) and you want to look good by the summer time(elephant), so you throw away all the junk food in the house, you exercise, and you learn how to eat properly(the path). That's the basic idea but the book expands on the framework of each step even more.
The book is made up of many stories which are broken up into these three components. There are about 260 reading pages and I was able to finish this book in a day. The book is well-written. It is easy to read, there are only a few big words and it flows very well.
My impressions of the book are as follows: I felt that the book was longer than it needed to be. I enjoyed reading it but I didn't feel that there was 260 pages worth of information. The message of the rider, elephant, and path could have honestly been put together in a two-page article and could be explained in a 100 page book. There are many stories to illustrate one point and I felt that if you understood any one of the stories, than you could probably skip the rest. Some of the stories were a little boring to read because I could not relate to them.
I want to also say that the framework of change that is described in this book is very basic and not universal. For example, I believe that if you are a very shy person and you have trouble asking a girl out because of either social issues or a fear of rejection, you might need therapy or counseling to help find, understand, and get "your elephant" moving. The rider might already be there and ready to go and the path might be laid out for you. You want to make the change but you just cannot understand the elephant and the change ultimately does not occur. The rider is a slave to the elephant. I wanted to see a better explanation of this type of change. The explanations and stories in this book were more about change regarding new ideas or improving old ones.
Other than that, I thought it was a decent book. It's not a life-changing book but it helps you to see the message of how to change in a new perspective and the delivery is effective. The metaphor of the rider, elephant, and path has certainly "stuck" with me. I think the book is more business oriented. A lot of the examples deal with change in a business and social setting. I was hoping that the message would be universal but there were not a whole lot of stories here regarding personal change. If it is personal change you desire, I think you have to look to Brian Tracy, John C. Maxwell, and others.
Overall, good message, repetitive, but worth the read.