On Switch

I recently finished reading Switch – How To Change Things When Change Is Hard By Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

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.”


Omar Halabieh



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