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Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

 
 

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

If you enjoyed Made To Stick, with its lively writing style and anecdata way of explaining things, you might want to pick up this one as well. Change don't come easy, people hate change, change is hard. The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth. If you need to change something, anything, from how your office deals with time-sheets to your entire life, reading this is a good place to start.

Because why, really, is it so hard to change?

Chip and Dan Heath argue that to change someones behavior, you have to change their situation. That three things can make the change happen and they are explained by extended metaphors. The Rider (our rational side), the Elephant, (our emotional and instinctive side) and the Path (i.e. the surrounding environment). The challenge is to steer the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path to make change more likely to happen: "no matter what's happening with the Rider and Elephant...If you can do all three at once, dramatic change can happen even if you don't have lots of power or resources behind you."

Neat trick that.

"For things to change, somebody somewhere has to start acting differently. Maybe it's you, maybe it's your team. Picture the person (or people). Each has an emotional Elephant side and a rational Rider side. You've got to reach both. And you've also got to clear the way for them to succeed."

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

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