Switch Book Review

Are you hampered by guilt, held hostage by shame, delayed by pain?  What? Those words came to me last week  as I returned from the bathroom and I wasn’t in the mood for a discussion.  A velvety voice whispered; “don’t bother writing it down wait until the morning.” Before my head hit the pillow another voice shouted; “why take that chance”-to switch off the racket and get back to sleep I typed the note in my BlackBerry.  

Switch, How To Change Things When Change Is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath builds on an analogy captured by University of Virginia professor Jonathan Haidt in his book The Happiness Hypothesis. Switch evolves as a how-to-book-attractively packed in a self-help book. The Heaths designed their book to equip anyone who is interested in influencing others to diet, to buy, to learn, to start a revolution or give to a charity; it is written for aspiring or seasoned leaders, followers or soccer moms or stay at home dads.  The Heaths are entertaining and insightful.

In the Happiness Hypothesis Haidt captures our built-in schizophrenia; in his analogy of an elephant, which is our emotional side and a rider which represents our rational side.  Haidt describes the rider as being perched atop a 6 ton elephant – the rider appears to be in control but, he’s no match for the elephant.  The Heaths unpacked the beautiful gift which Haidt presented and re-gifted it for the world.  Switch is a plug and play book with multiple applications for today’s world and beyond.  Enclosed are stories of how schools where transformed, countries changed, business profits increased, customer service call centers revived and lives saved by ordinary people. 

Through their research they discovered that all change follows a distinct pattern and by following the pattern we can design changes in our lives.  The transformations enclosed in Switch were implemented by ordinary people who united both minds and, as a result, achieved outstanding results.  In three simple steps anyone can produce the switch they desire.  The Heaths suggest that in order for a switch to occur we need to direct the rider, motivate the elephant, and shape the path. 

1. Direct the rider:  Without direction the rider will analyze and plan forever.

* Find the bright spots:  Look for the successes; build and duplicate on these accomplishments  

* Script the critical moves: Don’t leave anything to chance; remove any ambiguity 

* Point to the destination: Cast a clear and concise vision 

2. Motivate the elephant: You need the elephant to carry you through the terrain, knowing is only half the battle

* Find the feeling: Identify what gets her moving; carrots and sticks only work in the short term

* Shrink the change:  Changing your tribe’s mindset brings them closer to your goal

* Grow your people: Train and develop your tribe

3. Shape the path:  Create the parameters for your tribe to travel

* Tweak the environment: Make necessary adjustments along the journey

* Build habits: Creating the right habits will set your change on automatic pilot  

* Rally the herd:  Use your tribe to keep everyone in line

* Keep the switch going: Frequently check to keep everyone moving closer to your destination

Switch is packed with riveting examples that will cause you to rethink your change efforts and make you eager to apply what you have learned; it is an excellent resource for seasoned or aspiring leaders.