Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Chapter 1: Three Surprises About Change
- The first surprise is that to change a person's behavior, you've got to change that person's situation.
- For individuals' behavior to change, you must influence not only their environment and their hearts and minds. But the heart and mind often disagree.
- Your brain is two systems: The emotional side, which feels pain and pleasure, and the rational side, that deliberates and analyzes.
- We can think of our emotional side as the Elephant, and our rational side as its Rider. When they disagree, the Rider is going to lose.
- But the Elephant gets things done: it provides the drive and energy toward a goal. And the Rider has the weakness of over-analyzing and over-thinking things.
- If you want to change things, you must appeal to both: The Rider provides the planning and direction, while the Elephant provides the energy.
- Self-control is an exhaustible resource. When exhausted, the Rider does not have enough strength to control the Elephant anymore.
- When people try to change things, they're usually tinkering with behaviors that have become automatic, and changing those behaviors requires careful supervision by the Rider.
- The second surprise is that what looks like laziness is often exhaustion. Change is hard because people wear themselves out.
- The third surprise is that what looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. If the Rider isn't sure of what direction to go, he leads the Elephant in circles.
- If you want people to change, you must provide crystal-clear direction. Otherwise the rider will spin his wheels.
- Distilling this into three parts: Direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path.
Part 1: Direct the Rider
Chapter 2: Find the Bright Spots
- Bright spots, or successes worth emulating, solve the "not invented here" problem, where people have a knee-jerk, skeptical response to imported solutions.
- In situations where change is needed, the Rider can see too many problems and spend too much time sizing them up, thereby dooming the effort.
- Bright spots are your best hope for directing the Rider in such situations when you're trying to bring about change.
- Solutions-focused therapists pose the Miracle Question: "If all your troubles were solved over overnight, what is the first small sign of this that you'd see in the morning?"
- They then pose to the Exception Question: "When is the last time you saw a little bit of the miracle?"
- By answering this question the client is offering up proof that he or she has already solved the problem, even in some circumstances.
- The bright spot philosophy in a single question is to ask yourself, "What is working and how can we do more of it?"
- The Rider's capacity for analysis is endless; even successes can look like problems to an overactive Rider.
- Big problems are typically solved not by big solutions, but by a series of smaller solutions. This asymmetry is why the Rider's analysis can backfire so easily.
- We must ask less of "What's broken, and how can we fix it?" and instead ask "What's working, and how can we do more of it?"
- Our predilection for the negative creates a problem focus for our Rider; by focusing on bright spots we can create a solution focus.
Chapter 3: Script the Critical Moves
- In times of change, the status quo is replaced with decisions; these new choices create uncertainty, which leads to decision paralysis.
- Ambiguity exhausts the rider because it tugs on the reins of the Elephant, trying to direct it down a new path.
- Uncertainty makes the Elephant anxious, and so it will insist on taking the default path, which is the status quo.
- Change begins at the level of individual decisions and actions; scripting guides the behavior that you want to see in a difficult moment.
- Scripting only the critical moves, instead of all moves, provides focus and makes it easier for people to change direction.
- Don't assume the new moves are obvious. Translate aspirations into actions by clearly defining behavioral goals.
- Conventional wisdom says that people resist change, people are stubborn and set in their ways; but clarity dissolves resistance.
Chapter 4: Point to the Destination
- Good to Great showed that a "Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal," or BHAG, was a motivational goal that distinguished lasting companies from less successful ones.
- In creating change, we want a destination postcard, or inspirational and vivid picture of the near-term future that shows what is possible.
- By pointing to an attractive destination, the Rider applies his strengths to figure out how to get there, instead of getting lost in analysis.
- SMART goals, or those that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely, address ambiguity and irrelevance, but lack emotional response.
- SMART goals are better for steady-state situations than change situations, because the assumptions underlying them are that the goals are worthwhile.
- When a big picture goal is imprecise, its ambiguity creates wiggle room for the Elephant to rationalize failure.
- A Black & White goal, by contrast, is all-or-nothing, but uninspiring and scripts critical behaviors instead of creating a destination postcard.
- B&W goals may be the solution for the potential for inaction on your team, or for silent resistance that may slow or sabotage your change initiative.
- Your goal can be less unyielding, but marry your long-term goal with short term critical moves while providing a behavioral script.
- Don't obsess about the middle, because it's going to look different once you get there. Look for a strong beginning and strong ending and get moving.
- In summary, for the Rider, follow the bright spots, and give direction by sending a destination postcard and scripting critical moves.
Part 2: Motivate the Elephant
Chapter 5: Find the Feeling
- When change works, it's because leaders are speaking to the Elephant as well as to the Rider.
- Analytical tools work best when the parameters are known, the assumptions are minimal, and the future is not fuzzy.
- The sequence of change is not ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE but SEE-FEEL-CHANGE, as you're presented with evidence that makes you feel something.
- Trying to fight inertia and indifference with analytical arguments is a solution that does not match the problem.
- We are bad at self-evaluation because it involves interpretation, and the Elephant tends to take the rosiest interpretation of the facts.
- These positive illusions make change difficult because they make it difficult for us to get a clear picture of where we are and how we're doing.
- The ambiguity in terms like "leader" or "team player" only enables our corresponding positive illusions.
- Some may try to create a "burning platform," or crisis to convince people they're facing a catastrophe and have no choice but to move.
- Negative emotions produce particular actions and facial expressions, and have a narrowing effect on our thoughts, providing focus.
- Positive emotions "broaden and build" our repertoire of thoughts an actions: They broaden what we consider doing, through which we build resources and skills.
- To solve bigger, more ambiguous problems, we must rely on positive emotion and encourage open minds, creativity, and hope.
Chapter 6: Shrink the Change
- People find it more motivating to be partially finished with a longer journey than to be at the starting line of a shorter one.
- That sense of progress is critical, because the Elephant is easily demoralized. It needs reassurance for the first step.
- If leading a change effort, don't focus solely on what's new and different about the change to come; remind people what's already been conquered.
- If people are facing a daunting task, and their instinct is to avoid it, shrink the change.
- Make the change small enough that they can't help but score a victory. Progress will snowball, and you will motivate the Elephant.
- You can shrink the change either by limiting the investment you're asking for, or by setting milestones within reach.
- When you engineer early successes, what you are really doing is engineering hope, which is Elephant fuel.
- Once people are on the path and making progress, it's important to make their advances visible. Such encouragement is self-reinforcing.
- This also focuses attention on small milestones that are attainable and visible rather than the eventual destination, which may seem very remote.
- A small win reduces importance, reduces demands, and raises perceived skill levels, each of which makes the change more self-sustaining.
Chapter 7: Grow Your People
- Shrinking the change makes people feel "big" relative to the challenge. Or you can grow the people, giving them strength to act.
- In the consequences model of decision making, we weigh costs and benefits and make the choice that maximizes our satisfaction.
- In the identity model, we ask "Who am I?", "What kind of situation is this?", and "What would someone like me do in this situation?"
- An identity model omits any calculation of costs and benefits.
- Because identities are central to the way people make decisions, any change effort that violates someone's identity is likely doomed to failure.
- If someone doesn't aspire to be the person who would make the change you're asking, then you must work hard so they aspire to a different self-image.
- People are receptive to new identities, and identities "grow" from small beginnings. Start small and build momentum.
- Even an ultimately successful quest is going to involve failure en route, and your Elephant really hates to fail.
- People with a fixed mindset avoid challenges, feel threatened by negative feedback, and try not to be seen exerting too much effort.
- People with a growth mindset believe that abilities are like muscles, and that they can be built up with practice.
- Those with a growth mindset stretch themselves, take risks, accept feedback, and take a long term view. They can't help but progress in their lives and careers.
- A growth mindset compliment praises effort rather than skill.
- The business world implicitly rejects the growth mindset. You plan and then execute; practice looks like poor execution.
- If failure is a necessary part of change, then the way people interpret failure is critical.
- Although growth mindset seems to draw attention to failure, and even encourages us to seek out failure, it is unflaggingly optimistic.
- It reframes failure as a natural part of the change process. People only persevere if they perceive falling down as learning, not falling.
Part 3: Shape the Path
Chapter 8: Tweak the Environment
- The Fundamental Attribution Error is our inclination to attribute people's behavior to the way they are rather than to the situation they're in.
- What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem; that problem can be remedied by shaping the path.
- Tweaking the environment is about making the right behaviors a little bit easier and the wrong behaviors a little bit harder.
- You know you've got a smart solution when everyone hates it and it still works, or if it works so well that hate turns to enthusiasm.
- When it comes to changing our own behavior, environmental tweaks may prove more effective than self-control.
- The Haddon Matrix is a framework that decomposes accidents into pre-event, event, and post-event time periods.
- Pre-event focuses on prevention, event focuses on minimizing the probability of damage, and post-event focuses on minimizing damage.
Chapter 9: Build Habits
- One of the subtle ways in which our environment acts on us is by reinforcing or deterring our habits.
- Good habits allow good things to happen without the Rider taking charge, which is good because his self-control is exhaustible.
- An action trigger is when you've made the decision to execute a certain action when you encounter a certain situational trigger.
- An action trigger preloads the next action; there is no cycle of conscious deliberation. You conserve the Rider's self-control.
- By predeciding with an action trigger, you pass the control of your behavior onto the environment. You create an "instant habit."
- Leaders who can instill habits that reinforce their teams' goals are essentially making progress for free.
- The hard question for a leader is not how to form habits but which habits to encourage.
- When creating a habit to support your change, it needs to advance the mission, and it needs to be relatively easy to embrace.
- In shaping the Path, the humble checklist is a tool that combines the strategies of tweaking the environment and building habits.
- Checklists educate people about what's best, showing them the ironclad way to do something.
- Even without ironclad ways of doing something, checklists avoid blindspots in a complex environment, and provide insurance against overconfidence.
Chapter 10: Rally the Herd
- In ambiguous situations or unfamiliar environments, such as during change, we all look to others for cues on how to behave.
- In situations where the herd has embraced the right behavior, publicize it. Otherwise, publicizing will hurt, not help.
- Rallying the support of others who could in turn influence those you hope to sway is an attempt to change the culture.
- "Free spaces" are small-scale meetings where reformers can gather and ready themselves for action without observation by the dominant group.
- Every culture is shaped by language. Incubating a new language with a new set of values can create an "oppositional identity."
- If you want to change the culture of your organization, you must let the reformers come together in a free space.
- You must also permit an identity conflict, or an "us versus them" struggle to happen. Think of it as organizational molting.
Chapter 11: Keep the Switch Going
- Recognize and celebrate your first step on the path to change. And when you spot that movement, reinforce it.
- Set a behavioral destination and then use "approximations," rewarding each tiny step toward the destination.
- Reinforcement is the key to getting past the first step on the journey, but we are quicker to grouse than to praise.
- Learning to find bright spots, or approximations, and reward them requires constantly scanning the environment.
- Change is not an event; it is a process. And to lead a process requires persistence.
- The mere exposure effect says the more you're exposed to something, the more you like it. This can help sustain change.
- Cognitive dissonance says that once people have begun to act in a new way, it will be difficult for them to dislike the way they're acting.
- As small changes snowball into big changes, inertia will shift from resisting change to supporting it.
- People who change have a clear direction (the Rider), ample motivation (the Elephant), and a supportive environment (the Path).