Book Summary of “Switch – How to Change Things When is Hard” by Chip and Dan Heath

Often I try to write book reviews of books I have read. These encompass quotes from the book – sentences and sections that really caught my attention and insights the author had that I find interesting. There may also be things that I highlight that I want to engage in conversation with the author about – things that I’m not convinced about or I disagree with, but are worth highlighting.

But today, I wanted to do something a bit different – I wanted to do a summary of a book I read over the summer. Chip and Dan Heath write about change. I love change. It’s a topic that is so very needed. Here’s the thing, there isn’t a right way to do it because we’re dealing people and people generally are messy and complicated and don’t act rationally. And when it comes to change, there are people who will do irrational things just for spite. But then there are some wonderful people who will go out of there way to make change happen because they recognize that change needs to happen in order for the organization, business, relationship, life to go on and to thrive. That’s a beautiful thing. And so we ought to encourage these folks as much as possible – give them the tools they need and support them to make the changes they have to make to overcome the obstacles and people they will come across who will get in the way of make needed changes.

“Switch” was published in 2010 and it is still relevant today because change is just as hard today as it was 13 years ago – maybe even harder as it was then. Not because things are harder, but because often people are more difficult.

So to help out, I’ve created a summary of the book that I hope is helpful.

Here you go. Chip and Dan divide the book into three main sections. I added the last section as a summation of the conclusion. I hope this is helpful. I would still encourage you to get the book and read it. The stories and descriptions are very helpful.

Direct the Rider – the analytical, thinker, finder of problems, knowledge and information, left brain

  • The destination has to be crystal clear.  A vivid picture from the near-term future that shows that could be possible.  Have a gut-smacking goal that appeals to both head and heart.  
  • Script the critical moves.  This is about behavioral goals.  Clarity dissolves resistance.  
  • Find the bright spots so people can emulate them.  These are things that people are already doing that are working.  Native solutions are best – people own them.  
  • Ask important questions – Identify the tangible signs that the miracle happened.  When was the last time you saw a little bit of the miracle, even just for a short time?  What’s working and how can we do more of it?  

Motivate the Elephant – the emotion, motivation, feeling, right brain

  • See-Feel-Change is the way change actually happens.  We see it.  We feel it.  And it changes us.  
  • Make them feel the need for change.  Base this off of hope and optimism and excitement, along with creativity.  Knowing isn’t motivation for change.  Imagery and experience drive this home.  
  • Shrink the change – One way to motivate action is to make people feel as though they’re already closer to the finish line than you might have thought.  Look for small wins.  When you engineer early success, you engineer hope. 
  • Identity – Who am I?  What kind of situation is this?  What would someone like me do in this situation?  Any change effort that violates someone’s identity is likely doomed to failure.  
  • Growth mindset – With long change create an expectation of failure en route, not of the mission.  Opens people for learning and growth.  

Shape the Path – how easy is the way forward?

  • Tweaking the environment is about making the right behaviors a little bit easier and the wrong behaviors a little bit harder. 
  • Use action triggers to be clear and make change in behavior happen.  It’s about preloading a decision. 
  • Behavior is contagious – Use peer influence to persuade people to join in.  You do something because you see someone else do it.  Publicize situations where your people have embraced the right behavior.  
  • Connect people who want to change.  Free spaces where reformers can gather and ready themselves for collective action without being observed by members of the dominant group. 
  • There needs to be an identity conflict.  New guard vs. old guard.  Free space to meet.  Build good habits and be prepared for opposition and how to react to resistance.  Create a language that will articulate what is different and better about the change you seek. 

Keeping it going

  • Recognize and celebrate the first step – any step.  
  • Use the Mere Exposure Effect – the more you’re exposed to something, the more you like it.  
  • Cognitive dissonance – Once a small step has been taken, and people have begun to act in a new way, it will be increasingly difficult for them to dislike the way they’re acting.  
  • The pattern of change – clear direction, ample motivation, and a supportive environment. 

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