Sunday, March 17, 2013

Book Review: Switch - How to Change Things When Change is Hard

http://www.flipitconsulting.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/scaled.switch-heath.jpgChip and Dan Heath's book "Change" was one of the books recommended at a Leadership Summit I attended a couple of years ago. They are a couple of sharp young guys who wrote this book after doing extensive research in psychology, sociology and other fields on how to bring about transformative change.

I found this book appealing as a pastor because a large part of what I do is try to help people bring about positive change in their lives. This book is written to help leaders understand why and how people change, what keeps us from changing, and how to overcome obstacles to change.

For instance, in each of us we find that there tends to be a conflict whenever even a positive change is suggested. As psychologists have discovered, our rational mind (the rider) understands the need to change, but our emotional mind (the elephant) resists change because change involves action and disturbing existing routine. However, if we can find a way to overcome that tension, change can happen quickly.

They begin by highlighting three surprises regarding change which were discovered through studies. The first is that What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. In other words, we ought not to assume that people don't want to change. Often, they are in situations that make it difficult for them to change.

The second surprise is that What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. This is because often people are trying to change through the power of self-control, which can be emotionally exhausting. Self-control is an exhaustible resource. The bigger the change, the harder it is for someone to force themselves to make.

The third surprise is that What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. Sometimes we really don't know how to get to the other side, we just know that we want to change. We can find ourselves spinning our wheels because we just don't know what to do.

In the book, the Heaths provide a three-part framework for helping to facilitate change and to overcome these three problems.
  1. Direct the Rider (Rational Mind) 
  2. Motivate the Elephant (Emotional Mind)
  3. Shape the Path
Using real life examples and case studies, we can see how even entrenched behaviors can be changed when the right information is provided clearly. We may assume that people simply don't want to follow our advice when, in fact, they don't understand the situation in the same way that we do. Ask yourself how you can demonstrate it more clearly.

They also demonstrate why it is important to engage people's emotional side in order to build momentum. If a person doesn't feel that change will have a worthwhile benefit they will resist. It's human nature. But when the emotional side of us is engaged, a great deal can be accomplished.

Finally they talk about one of the greatest ways to facilitate change - shaping the path. This speaks of environmental changes. This may be as simple as hiding the large plates and using only the smaller ones if your goal is to lose weight. Or it may mean using a two-step switch that requires two hands to activate for dangerous equipment in order to keep hands clear.

There are great examples in this book of ordinary people who were able to bring about radical change.
  • Medical interns who defeated an entrenched medical practice that was endangering lives.
  • A home-organizing specialist who developed a simple technique to overcome the dread of housekeeping.
  • The manager who reversed the reputation of a customer-support team from failures into standard-bearers.
This book is well worth the read for anyone who leads people, because leadership is all about facilitating change. If you have some changes that you need to make in your life, this may be helpful to you as well. For those who know me, do you think it's a coincidence that my desk and office are now clean for the first time in recent memory? I think not!

Related Articles:
Book Review: "Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine"
Book Review: I Am A Follower
Book Review: "The Harbinger"
Shawn McDonald - People Change
Developing Great Habits




  
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