Insights and Influence


Dan Heath

Dec 13-14, 2021

Raleigh, NC

What Bill thought were Highlights


“If a system never learns it never improves.”

When there is no systemic problem solving with individuals or organizations, tunneling occurs, e.g., narrowing of your focus to what you know or has worked in the past.  The result is Whack-A-Mole. To escape from the tunneling the focus must be on Fundamental Growth Improvement.

We must make time to determine a destination, plan a route to get there, and thrive on the journey.  (Bill-the journey never ends.  See William Stafford’s poem ‘The Way It Is.’) (Bill’s comments will be in parentheses.}


  1. What if there is a better destination than the one you are going toward? Decide ‘whether or not’ to move toward the current destination or change direction. That is a decision to make. We are sometimes blind to our choices.  The villain is narrow framing of the problem and/or the solution.

Confirmation Bias eliminates options.  See the article ‘Laddering’ by Dan Heath already posted.  Use analogies, look outside your own system, and go up the ladder to see possible destinations. (Ah, vision)

See the article Laddering at

  1. What is we’re chasing the wrong destination?
  • Get neutral feedback
  • Include a Devil’s advocate
  • Ooching which is outlined in the book. Inching and scooting toward a solution.  This helps to overcome ‘Confirmation Bias.’

When hiring ask for work samples, consulting contracts, trial runs.  (See Chief Joy Officer by Richard Sheridan and how they hire.  Team interviews – would you want to work with this person?  Do they play well with others? One day trial periods, short term projects, “Run the Experiment.”

  1. What must you give up? (Are you willing to give it up?) Opportunity cost involves the difference between what you would getting now and what you won’t be getting by the alternative.  If you do more of something, you will be required to do less of something else.
  2. Does the destination really fit you? Here was Dan’s Ladder of Competence:
  • Genius
  • Excellence – sometimes you get trapped by this. (You are good, so others want to keep you doing the same thing)
  • Competence
  • Incompetence

Some questions Dan asked us:

  • What is your genius?
  • Have you fallen into the “excellence trap?”
  • When did you first realize your competence and excellence?
  • What is your genius?

Reminder about Switch metaphor

  • Rider is the rational part
  • Elephant is the emotional part
  • Path is the journey

Plan the Route. We have the information we need.  (Angeles Arrien, in the Four-Fold Way said:

  1. Show up and be fully present
  2. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning
  3. Tell the truth without blame or judgment
  4. Be open to outcome, not attached to how to get there

It is #4 that sticks out to me.  Plan the route and know you may be off track or surprised along the way.)

In a fight between the rational and emotional is not a fair fight. Emotions usually win.

Emotional is the elephant

  • Direct the rider Clarity – vision or destination
  • Motivate the elephant Desire – fire in the belly
  • Shape the path Ease – path of least resistance

Rider behaviors

  • What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity
  • Clarity: Goals and Behaviors to get to the goal

Leaders need to spotlight the right behavior. (In the book ‘Whale Done’ Blanchard interviewed trainers of whales at Sea World.  How do you get a multi-ton whale to jump through flaming hoops?  Their answer:

  1. We get in the water and play with them. First, they need to know we mean them no harm.
  2. Reward them for doing the right thing.

Always know that Bad is stronger than good for memories.  (Think about news reports:  what bleeds, leads. Listen to the song ‘Dirty Laundry’ by the Eagles)

What’s the problem and how do we solve it?  Find out what is working somewhere. (Positive Deviance is about Jerry Sternin) What’s working and how do we do more of it?  Learn to study success. Find the Bright Spots

Elephant tricks

  • Shrink the change, it will fuel motivation
  • Don’t “inform” people about change. Boost their DESIRE to change
  • Behavior is contagious
  • Tweak the environment
  • When the Path changes, people change

Stand up meetings – research says this results in shorter meetings and more productivity.  Make the path of least resistance

Summary of Switch ideas


  • Focus on behaviors
  • Study bright spots


  • Shrink the change
  • Find the feeling

Shape the path

  • Rally the herd
  • Tweak the environment

Activity:  we wrote down on paper a habit we wanted to eliminate.  Then, went to a shredder to dispose of the note.  Keep in mind if you want to quit a bad habit, failure is part of the deal.

Never ending part of leadership:  clear, sticky communication

Make a 2-minute pitch to a group – it must be worthwhile to them, not just to you

Made to Stick – SUCCESs – an organizer for maximum retention

  1. Simple
  2. Unexpected
  3. Concrete
  4. Credible
  5. Emotional
  6. Stories

Sticky ideas are about Stories & Credibility.  Real stories attract people who see the storyteller as credible. Why Stories Stick?  They use concrete language which increases understanding and memory.  We want to share the same movies in our heads

If you want people to have preference, they must see a difference. When everything seems the same, it is boring to the brain. Marcus Elliott, trainer for NE patriots by looking at data reduced leg injuries from 22 to 3.  Marcus did not accept the fact there was nothing they could do about the injuries.

Problem Blindness – first you must see the problem, take it seriously, and then look for possible actions.

  • Be concrete – what will success look like
  • What’s different? Highlight uncommon sense
  • Make the WHY explicit (elephant)

Joe Sanfelippo:  Scanning the world for opportunities to celebrate.  Joyful work

Purpose and Passion. Purpose trumps passion. Reconnect people with purpose.  (See Bill for his work on Finding Your Why.  This is about your purpose)

4 strategies for thriving

  1. Purpose
  2. Progress – Teresa Amabile wrote ‘The Progress Principle.’ The best motivators are visible progress on meaningful work.
  3. Responsiveness
  4. Recognition

Luthans and Stajkovic:  Effective recognition is about noticing. Do you recognize employees? Recognition Gap – 80% of the managers say they recognize employees.  When employees were asked, only 20% said they were recognized for their contribution.