How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Heath, Chip

Book - 2010
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
In a compelling, story-driven narrative, the Heaths bring together decades of counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. "Switch "shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline.

Publisher: New York : Broadway Books, 2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780385528757
Branch Call Number: 303.4 H
Characteristics: 305 p. ; 22 cm.
Additional Contributors: Heath, Dan 1973-


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Mar 26, 2015
  • queequegs rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Although I have enjoyed all the Heath Brother books, this is my favorite. So full of great, practical, but uniquely helpful and positive advice on planning and leading change and solving big problems.

Jan 21, 2015
  • 1aa rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Simply written; has numerous anecdotes that illustrate the points being made; a very well structured book.

Jul 19, 2014
  • ksoles rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Why does change come so slowly and with such difficulty? Why do people struggle to lose weight even when armed with knowledge of how to do so? Why do most "problem kids" end up dropping out of school instead of benefiting from teacher intervention? And how does an employee even begin to reform a multi-million dollar corporation? In their witty and instructive "Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard," Chip and Dan Heath draw on the sciences of human behaviour to tackle such enigmatic questions.

The Heath brothers believe that "willpower," "leadership" and other platonic solutions only see an individual or a group through temporary change. Our brains do not contain a single decision-making unit, they argue; instead, we have two systems: a rational one, analytical and slow to act ("The Rider") and an emotional one, impulsive and prone to form and follow habits ("The Elephant"). The Rider needs a series of rules to follow and The Elephant needs motivation i.e. an emotional rationale. Concrete information unifies the two systems.

In their introduction, the authors identify three surprises about change: what looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity; what looks like laziness is often exhaustion and what looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. The solution to overcoming these misconceptions? Direct the rider, motivate the elephant and shape the path. "Switch" supports this thesis primarily through fascinating stories of people, companies and organizations that have successfully undertaken major realignments, sometimes against long odds. A charity drastically reduced childhood malnutrition in Vietnam, a retailer metamorphosed from underwhelming into a trendsetting national powerhouse and a teacher in Portland transformed his classroom by getting the most disruptive students to show up on time and sit in the front row.

"Switch" doesn't announce any scientific breakthroughs. Appeals to emotion have long spurred action faster than have appeals to logic. But therein lies the book's genius: the Heaths clearly demonstrate the importance of bringing both The Rider and The Elephant on board for change and then explain why that still doesn't lead to success. More than we suspect, outside influences control our actions. Good intentions and a host of intelligence face certain defeat in the wrong setting. For any effort at change to count, you have to "shape the path." "Switch" has doubtlessly shaped a path that leads in a promising direction.

Jun 07, 2014
  • JCLChrisK rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I find the human creature a fascinating one to study, and when I take a break from children's and teen books I often seem to be drawn to titles reporting some of the latest research on human natures at the intersection of psychology, sociology, biology, and the like. Each time, I feel I glean (at least) a little more insight into myself and those around me. Yet, generally those books have the primary purpose of reporting results and discoveries, then have room for only a cursory consideration of what to do with that knowledge; I sometimes find myself in the same spot, delighted by the new things I know, yet wondering how to go about applying those things to my life.

This is the second book I've read by the Heath brothers--the other being their more recent title Decisive --and it seems to me that's where they come in. They study the research in a given area, then excellently boil it down to a core essence that can be easily communicated, digested, and used. Instead of spending their time explaining the research, they show how it can be (has been) applied in situation after situation. These examples serve the purpose of explaining the research in real world contexts, but, more importantly, they teach readers how they can make use of the information for themselves. It's not abstract knowledge, but applied. While they risk being over simplistic with their approach for some situations, I expect I'll find their framework highly helpful in the future whether I want to consider changes in my personal life, work life, or other.

Mar 10, 2011
  • lilwordworm rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Nothing new folks. Balance your logical side with your emotional side to achieve optimal happiness. I can write that on a fortune cookie slip and save myself 250 pages.

Dec 08, 2010

Who doesn’t want to know how to make a successful change? Chip Heath and Dan Heath have hit on a universal quest in their latest book. We all want, or need, to change from time to time. Sometimes it’s minor tweaking. For others, it requires massive transformation.

Nov 26, 2010
  • kjanowski rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

excellent summary of research (by others) about behavior change and social change and organizational change. includes lots of examples and memorable metaphors and tips for how to effect change. highly recommended.

Sep 16, 2010

Imagine an alarm clock that goes off in the morning and it's designed to roll off your bedside table and roll around with the annoying alarm ringing. You get up and chase it. Think it's weird? Apparently it sells quite well and it got you out of bed, didn't it?

Early in SWITCH, the authors, Chip and Dan Heath, describe the two parts of you that struggle endlessly. They call the parts the elephant and the rider. The struggle begins the moment your alarm goes off. One part of you wants to stay comfortable and go back sleep for a few minutes.

The other wants to get up and use the extra time for some exercise or to eat a healthier breakfast. Sound familiar?
The book does a superb job of teaching you all about the rider and the elephant.

I'll leave these first two sections of the book to you, because I found the third part of change even more intriguing. It's intriguing and yet it's somewhat obvious when you stop and think about it. The authors call it shaping the path. The concept is that usually we have to tweak the environment to change how people behave. The Heath brothers teach the importance of "the path" through detailed examples and case studies in the form of stories. The results are inspiring.

Try this: Tomorrow pay attention to how many times you see where people have tweaked the environment to shape your behaviour. Streets and traffic lights are perfect examples. Small tweaks to the environment can trigger a change in behaviour. It can be something small. It could be an email with subheadings and blocks of text that nudged you to keep reading. Your car probably has an annoying chime if you don't put on your seatbelt. You get the idea.

This book is one of the best books on change I've ever read. It gracefully combines all the concepts found in books about organizational change in business and self-help books aimed at personal change. It doesn't just talk about theory. It's really a how-to book full of fascinating examples and stories that reinforce that change is possible even when it seems impossible.

This is one of those worthy books that you shouldn't just read. You should take it apart. Read it a few times and see how to apply it in your life or in your business. When you're done, recommend it to a friend. Understanding the three elements that drive true change will pay big in your career, your business, and in your personal life.

Remember that annoying clock that tries to lure you out of bed in the morning? Consider this your wake up call. You can either go back to sleep and do nothing or you can tweak your environment right now. Leave yourself a reminder to read this book. You still have to learn about the elephant and rider anyway. Change is hard. This book shows you how

Mar 15, 2010

4/4 35 amazon.com


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May 07, 2014
  • JCLMeaganB rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

p. 19 “To change behavior, you’ve got to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path. If you can do all three things at once, dramatic change can happen even if you don’t have lots of power or resources behind you.”

May 01, 2010

p.47 A particular strain of this "bad is stronger than good" bias is critical when it comes to tackling change. Let's call it a problem focus. To see it, consider the situation: Your child comes home one day with her report card. She got one A, four B's, and one F. Where will you spend your time as a parent?

This hypothetical comes from author Marcus Buckingham, who says that nearly all parents will tend to fixate on the F. It's easy to empathize with them: Something seems broken - we should fix it. Let's get her a tutor. Or maybe she should be punished - she's grounded until that grade recovers. It is the rare parent who would say, instead, "Honey, you made an 'A' in this one class. You must really have a strength in this subject. How can we build on that?" (Buckingham has a fine series of books on making the most of your strengths rather than obsessing about your weaknesses.)

May 01, 2010

p.44 This is a theme you will see again and again. 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.


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