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on June 7, 2016
I am by no means a big fan of "business books". Most feel like they're thrown together quickly and read like dirge. I was pleasantly surprised by Switch -- which both reads easily and is absolutely relevant to the problems we all face in our work (and personal) lives. It breaks down the process of change into three easily-remembered and compelling constructs, and gives lots of practical examples for each construct. I found myself incorporating the concepts from Switch into my daily activities immediately, and my zeal for the model hasn't diminished over the past couple of months (the typical half-life of a business book is days in my experience).

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!
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on December 2, 2012
Switch is a book about managing change by the Heath brothers (Chip and Dan). Chip is a professor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University and Dan is a Senior Fellow at Duke University' Social Entrepreneurship center. The two have teamed up before -- in 2007 they released their critically acclaimed Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. This latest effort focuses less on the stickiness of the idea and more on the change process itself. What should a change agent do to implement lasting change in a hard-headed organization that desperately needs it?

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.
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on September 21, 2016
Getting an individual or a group to enthusiastically support a change is difficult. It often can't be accomplished by orders or even suggestions. This book describes effective tactics for gently persuading an individual or a group to support a change. Nothing suggested in the book is manipulative or coercive.
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on June 23, 2017
“As a second-semester graduate student, “Switch” by Chip and Dan Heath has been one of the more informative, and enjoyable books I have read of the eight books we’re read thus far. Switch describes three critical directives to implement change through clear examples. By directing the rider (our rational side), motivating the elephant (our emotional side) and shaping the path (change the situation), one can achieve real change.” – Graduate student comment. Switch was used as a required text in the graduate Design Management program at the Shintaro Akatsu School of Design at the University of Bridgeport
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on March 12, 2015
Ever want to loose weight and you’re like me you love chocolate chip cookies? You love them so much that your 4 year old calls you the cookie monster.

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.
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on January 14, 2015
This book is a summarization of the various theories of change management, be it in a business, government or NGO.

Dan and Chip talk about most of the problem being with situation and not with people as most of us would jump to conclusion. So, we end up struggling about getting people to behave in a new way. The corollary they draw to most people welcoming seismic changes like marriage and babies in their lives is quite an eye opener in this regard. So, if the behavior needs to change, there has to be a change in the situation.

The Elephant and Rider synonyms for the two minds in one brain was very innovative and interesting. This tells a lot and the authors uses these synonyms extensively through out the book. For instance while I knew that will power wears out after some usage and thus exhaustion becomes perceived as laziness, but with an Elephant and Rider context, it becomes very apparent.

It is not that all the concepts in this book are new, at I have been exposed to some of these like shrinking the change or lowering the bar in some other books and also in practical life. But then to be fair, the authors themselves claim to have referred to tons of book on change and have also recommended a few of them for additional reading. Still, I liked this book because it gave a different context to the various approached, but kept the impact on Elephant and Rider throughout each approaches. Thus it makes it easier to identify which approach works best in which case. And the cases are quite diverse, even a case of organizing the community to save a city or a parrot for that matter!!

Another innovative feature of this book was the clinics Dan and Chip give. It provides the reader an opportunity to try out the approaches and the impact of the same. I liked it a lot.

I had some disagreement on the mindset concept or to be more specific the wordings of the four question used to identify the mindset. Actually, I don’t believe in mindset and always felt it as all about conditioning

If you are one of those who are driving change in your place and losing steam, do read this book. It will tell you that yes, everything can look like a failure in the middle. But with if the Rider has the necessary direction (very important, ambiguity does not help to change) and the Elephant is well motivated, you will still reach the destination. After all , as Dan and Chip say, change is not an event, it a process.
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on December 1, 2013
Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1) "What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem."

2) "Now you've had a glimpse of the basic three-part framework we will unpack in this book, one that can guide you in any situation where you need to change behavior: 1) Direct the Rider. What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So provide crystal-clear direction. 2) Motivate the Elephant. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. The Rider can't get his way by force for very long. So it's critical that you engage people's emotional side—get their Elephants on the path and cooperative. 3) Shape the Path. What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. We call the situation (including the surrounding environment) the "Path." When you shape the Path, you make change more likely, no matter what's happening with the Rider and Elephant."

3) "The Miracle Question doesn't ask you to describe the miracle itself; it asks you to identify the tangible signs that the miracle happened...Once they've helped patients identify specific and vivid signs of progress, they pivot to a second question, which is perhaps even more important. It's the Exception Question: "When was the last time you saw a little bit of the miracle, even just for a short time?""

4) "Big problems are rarely solved with commensurately big solutions. Instead, they are most often solved by a sequence of small solutions, sometimes over weeks, sometimes over decades. And this asymmetry is why the Rider's predilection for analysis can backfire so easily. When the Rider analyzes a problem, he seeks a solution that befits the scale of it. If the Rider spots a hole, he wants to fill it, and if he's got a round hole with a 24-inch diameter, he's gonna go looking for a 24-inch peg. But that mental model is wrong."

5) "Ambiguity is the enemy. Any successful change requires a translation of ambiguous goals into concrete behaviors. In short, to make a switch, you need to script the critical moves."

6) "In creating change, though, we we're interested in goals that are closer at hand—the kinds of things that can be tackled by parents or middle managers or social activists. We want a goal that can be tackled in months or years, not decades. We want what we might call a destination postcard—a vivid picture from the near-term future that shows what could be possible."

7) "The Rider's strengths are substantial, and his flaws can be mitigated. When you appeal to the Rider inside yourself or inside others you are trying to influence, your game plan should be simple...First, follow the bright spots...Next, give direction to the Rider."

8) "Kotter and Cohen observed that, in almost all successful change efforts, the sequence of change is not ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE, but rather SEE-FEEL-CHANGE. You're presented with evidence that makes you feel something. It might be a disturbing look at the problem, or a hopeful glimpse of the solution, or a sobering reflection of your current habits, but regardless, it's something that hits you at the emotional level. It's something that speaks to the Elephant."

9) " Most of the big problems we encounter in organizations or society are ambiguous and evolving. They don't look like burning platform situations, where we need people to buckle down and execute a hard but well-understood game plan. To solve bigger, more ambiguous problems, we need to encourage open minds, creativity, and hope."

10) " In the identity model of decision making, we essentially ask ourselves three questions when we have a decision to make: Who am I? What kind of situation is this? What would someone like me do in this situation? Notice what's missing: any calculation of costs and benefits. The identity model explains the way most people vote, which contradicts our notion of the "self-interested voter.""

11) "That's the paradox of the growth mindset. Although it seems to draw attention to failure, and in fact encourages us to seek out failure, it is unflaggingly optimistic. We will struggle, we will fail we will be knocked down—but throughout, well get better, and we'll succeed in the end."

12) "Change isn't an event; it's a process. There is no moment when a monkey learns to skateboard; there's a process. There is no moment when a. a child learns to walk; there's a process. And there won't be a moment when your community starts to invest more in its school system, or starts recycling more, or starts to beautify its public spaces; there will be a process. To lead a process requires persistence. A long journey requires lots of mango."
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on August 19, 2017
Such an awesome book. I'm up to chapter 5 so maybe this review is premature, but the ideas presented here so far are fantastic and easy to follow. It feels like after reading this book, everything else about change management is a shadow of this book
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on May 1, 2017
Change is hard. Any change. Everywhere. In business, in personal life.

"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.
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on May 23, 2017
I was hoping for more from this. I had read one of their earlier books called Make it Stick and found that to be exceptionally good - full of novel insights and well-written. This book was not cut from the same cloth. It was harder to get interested in it or stay interested.
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