Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

How to Change Things When Change is Hard

Chapter 1: Three Surprises about Change. Would people given large buckets of popcorn eat more? The results revealed that people with the largest buckets ate 53% more popcorn than people who had the medium one. With a bigger container, people eat more. The first surprise is that what looks like a people problem is often only a situational problem. The solution is to give people smaller portions. All change requires you to act differently. People volunteer for a massive change in lifestyle when they have a kid. The first step is to change the situation. After that, influencing the hearts and mind is crucial as well. Clocky is an alarm clock which can move when it sounds, therefore forcing the person to chase after it. Remove a temptation altogether. The Elephant is our emotional self and the rider is our rational mind. It is easy for our emotional self to over-ride the rational self. The Elephant likes instant gratification. Emotion is not bad all the time and might be useful at times. The rider and the elephant must move together. If you run out of self-control, you tend to give up more easily than normal. Resisting the cookies requires willpower. Willpower is in limited supply. It is smarter to run on automatic behaviour. ‘What looks like laziness is often exhaustion’. To win your colleagues over, invite their elephants to your meeting. Sometimes, showing figures won’t work. The moral of the story is that you need to speak to their elephant. Sometimes, what looks like resistance is actually a lack of clarity. Sometimes, changing purchasing behaviour is the key. Providing crystal clear direction is the key. Instead of ‘act healthier’, say ‘Next time, buy XXX brand of low-fat milk from the supermarket’. To change behaviour, you need to do all 3: 1) Direct the Rider; 2) Motivate the Elephant; 3) Shape the Path. You need to motivate their emotional side to feel the need for change. Learn to shape the path. In any change situations, if you address these 3 steps: you will succeed.

Part of us – our rational side – wants to get up at 5:45am, allowing ourselves plenty of time for a quick jog before we leave for 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. – Chip and Dan Heath

Chapter 2: Find the Bright Spots. Malnutrition was being linked with poverty and a lack of drinking water. The researchers wanted to study how some kids in the village could be more healthy than others even if they were all poor. They realized that feeding kids 4 times a day instead of 2 using the same amount of food really worked. Kids also ate more when they had supplements to their rice. Knowledge won’t change behaviour, only practice will. The researchers thought the mothers how to cook. Have faith in bright spots. The rider usually focuses on problems. There is too much analysis paralysis going on. Show the rider where to go instead. Small adjustments can make a big difference. Have a solutions focused mindset. Ask yourself exception questions like ‘When was the last time you stayed sober for an hour or two?’ Once the exceptions have been identified, please focus on them. Once you have your bright spot, try to clone it. There is usually a reason why some things work and some don’t. If you allow your brain to think too much, every problem might seem too much for you. Most of the time, big problems are solved by small solutions. ‘What’s working right now?’ In general, people focus on negative news. Even most novelists focus on problems. In failure, there is also success. Sometimes, just a small spark is just what you need.

Chapter 3: Script the Critical Moves. More options lead us to decision paralysis. The more decisions you make, the more tired you become. In life, we have a lot of choices. The rider usually works on auto-pilot. Change brings about uncertainty. In light of a difficult situation, most people will just stick to status quo. Learn to script the critical moves. Scripting or providing crystal clear guidance is very important. You can’t script every move but the critical ones will work. Stay focused on the critical moves. Your rules should allow you to eliminate choices. The food pyramid is an example of something that is too vague and can’t spark change. You must remove any ambiguity. Be specific, like only drink 1% milk. Mirroring kid’s actions for parents can stop the parents from being violent after a while. For such parents, the key is for them to engage in activities where they can’t give orders to the kid. Internalize your behaviour. The first step to revive a town is to spend money locally in order to thrive the economy. The key is to build shared ideas among people. You need also hard facts to convince people. Once you start winning, things are much easier. Clarity dissolves resistance.

Chapter 4: Point to the Destination. You need to speak and identify with your audience. For instance, you must tailor make the goal properly. The teacher started calling her students ‘scholars’ and this had a positive effect on them. Set BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). Your goal should not be extremely long term. Have a destination postcard to direct people. For instance, your destination could be to co-ordinate all departments such that a lady having a lump in her breast could know quickly whether she had cancer or not. Everything would be housed in 1 facility. Put the patient at the centre. SMART goals are only good for steady state situations. Shape the path, rally the herd. Motivate the elephant and appeal to identity. Sometimes, to quit an addition, you need to get B&W (Black and White) goals. They are 100% restrictive goals, like no alcohol completely. When you set B&W goals, they force you to think harder. Marry your long term goal with short term critical moves. Look for a strong beginning and strong ending.

Chapter 5: Find the Feeling. Robyn Waters changed Target. How did he do it? Target was essentially a discount store. Later, the owners wanted to differentiate themselves based on design. The early results and successes were publicized. Waters brought in successful products that focussed on design, like the iMac etc. She performed a bunch of demonstrations which eventually worked. It is crucial to speak to people’s feelings. Speak to the Elephant. For simple situations, analyst first, then think, then change, will work. Analytical reasoning itself is insufficient and won’t work. Instead, see-feel-change works better. Let people SEE the possibilities through demonstrations. There was a team that created a video game and this had a positive influence on cancer patients who used to skip medication etc. It turns out that we are all lousy self-evaluators. People are generally overconfident of their abilities to perform. Appeal through demonstration. If you can someone to empathize with your cause, change will result. Many a time, people only change when there is a crisis. Sometimes, one can try to ‘create’ the crisis. Joy allows us to explore and build more skills and resources. Learn to open minds to encourage more creativity.

The positive emotion of interest broadens what we want to investigate. When we’re interested, we want to be involved, to learn new things, to tackle new experiences. We become more open to ideas. – Chip and Dan Heath

That sense of progress is critical, because the Elephant in us is easily demoralized. It’s easily spooked, easily derailed, and for that reason, it needs reassurance, even for the very first step of the journey. – Chip and Dan Heath

Chapter 6: Shrink the Change. People are motivated if you help them with the start of a journey rather than start from zilch. Make people feel that they are close to the finishing line. Never underestimate the power of placebo effects. Announcing some good news at the start might increase people’s motivation. The key is to shrink the change. Scale down the mission. Aim to make the house cleaner and not ‘clean’. The elephant likes to see immediate payoff. You can achieve this with just 5 minutes of work. Know the debt snowball strategy. You need quick wins to fire you up. You got to plan on how to achieve these small wins. Hope is elephant fuel and it will keep you going. Learn to create a miracle scale. Focus on the next step and not the final destination. Of course, a small win is not guaranteed but we can tailor our goals so that it will be easier to achieve it. If the task is too big, the elephant will resist it.

When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur…don’t look for the quick, big improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts. – Chip and Dan Heath

Chapter 7: Grow your People. Butler was tasked to save a parrot species. He relished the opportunity to do so. He suggested new laws like punishing for killing the parrots. He needed a way to rally the troops. His message would be to convince them that ‘they were the kind of people who protected their own’. He made merchandise from it and made it their national identity. It worked. Instead of shrinking the change, he grew the people. People make decisions using the consequence model and identity model. We develop identities through different phases of our lives. It is possible to make a change revolve a change of identity as compared to a change of consequence. Focus on bright spots, like what makes people good etc. In a corporation, you can also create a unique identity among your staff. For example, you can create a culture of innovation in your company. Being an inventor is a form of strength. Apply the ‘foot in the door’ strategy. People are generally receptive towards building new identities. Living up to an identity is generally more difficult. However, to forge a new identity often involves some form of failure. It is important to build in the expectation of failure. Fixed vs a growth mindset. To reach your full potential, you need a growth mindset. Cultivate a growth mindset in your team. Make people realize that failure is important and is inevitable. Adopt a learning frame. If you have to fail, fail early and move on.

Shape the Path – Chapter 8: Tweak the Environment. Most of the time, it is a situation problem and not a person problem. People tend to ignore situational factors and this is known as the fundamental attribution error. It is easier to tweak situation than to tweak someone’s behaviour. Smooth the problem by making it easier for others to achieve their goals. Tweaking means making the right behaviour seem a little easier and the wrong behaviour a little harder. Reduce the number of steps needed. It is simple, change the path and change the behaviour. If nurses were distracted, they tended to make more mistakes. The idea was that if nurses wore an orange vest when giving out medication, doctors and surgeons would not be allowed to distract them. The idea reaped huge rewards. People will change once their path is being shaped. Use smaller plates at home and you will realize that people will eat less. Self-manipulation does work. You can concentrate on your work but removing connection to the internet. Redesign machines such that it is impossible to make any huge safety blunders or mistakes. Consider both event and post-event interventions. Simple tweaks can make all the difference.

Chapter 9: Build Habits. Quite a number of the American soldiers during the Vietnam war became addicted to drugs. To cure an addiction, put them in a place where they are loved. Give them interesting work to do. Environmental factors can have a major impact. Habits allow us to use less willpower. Creating a new habit requires a mental framework. Action triggers are useful in motivating action. When I reach home, I will immediately go and run. Action triggers only work for things that people know they need to do. This is known as pre-loading the decision. However, the action trigger must be visible. Action triggers help motivate difficult decisions. Once you make everyone stand during their meetings, it will soon create a habit among others. Your action trigger cannot be too difficult as well, or people will be deterred by it. Use checklists as they are very effective. It will show you the ironclad way to do something. Checklists simply make screw ups more unlikely. Create a supportive environment that will make change easier for you. The next chapter would be to get others on your side.

Chapter 10: Rally the Herd. Learn to watch other people. Beware of the bystander effect. This is the power of peer pressure in a negative way. We unconsciously emulate the behaviour of others. To change others’ behaviour, tell them that others are doing the same. Use peer pressure in a positive way to force others to conform. Behavior is contagious at the societal level as well. To sell cross a difficult idea, it helps if some humour is being added as well. Radio campaigns and propaganda helps. Free space is an area where small groups of people can discuss without facing being observed by a dominant group. This is one of the keys to change as well. Get all the reformers in your company together and then form a free space for them. This is crucial.

A jerk with clear instructions was more charitable than a saint with generic instructions. – Chip and Dan Heath

Chapter 11: Keep the Switch Going. Reward yourself for every small step taken towards your goal. This is known as reinforcing positive behaviour and it can be really effective. Learn to scan the environment frequently. Focus on the positives and give praise when it’s due. Change is a long process. Be aware of the ‘mere exposure’ effect. Small change will snowball. The key thing to note is that change follows a pattern. What will you choose to switch? In summary, do the following 9 steps for successful change: 1) Follow the Bright Spots; 2) Script the Critical Moves; 3) Point to the Destination; 4) Find the Feeling; 5) Shrink the Change; 6) Grow your People; 7) Tweak the Environment; 8) Build Habits; 9) Rally the Herd

Cognitive dissonance works in your favour. People don’t like to act in one way and think in another. So 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. – Chip and Dan Heath



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