Heath, Chip.  Heath, Dan. (2010).  Switch:  how to change things when change is hard. New York:  Broadway Books

Italicized portions are direct quotes.  Regular are my comments and additions.

Three Surprises About Change

  1. To change someone’s behavior, you’ve got to change that person’s situation.  Using an alarm clock. Rational side wants to get up.  The emotional side wants to stay in bed. The emotional side usually wins.
  2. The Happiness Hypothesis, by Jonathan Haidt. He uses the Metaphor of Elephant and the Rider.  The Rider is the rational and the elephant is the emotional.  Elephant hungers for immediate gratification. The rider holds the reins.
  3. The elephant has enormous strength. Emotion is the elephant’s strength.  The rider tends to overanalyze and over think things.  If you want to change things, you’ve got to appeal to both.  When the rider and the elephant disagree, the rider can get his way temporarily.

Here is a framework to consider when working or trying to change things:

  1. Direct the Rider – clear direction
  2. Motivate the Elephant – engage them
  3. Shape the Path – what is the situation

What kind of information is “TBU” – True But Useless. In working on effective communication information is important and insufficient.  When helping leaders prepare for interviews, I recommend the following in the first 15-20 minutes:

  1. Cite some research.  There are people in the interview that want to know you know data, information, or up to date with current research.
  2. Tell a story.  There are people in the interview that want to know you have a soul.

Miracle Question:  Suppose you go to bed tonight and sleep well.  In the middle of the night, while you are sleeping, a miracle happens and all the troubles that brought you here are resolved.  When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first small sign you’d see that would make you think, well, something must have happened, the problem is gone.

I use the work of Jerry Sternin and his model of Positive Deviance which appeared in ‘Fast Company’ magazine as an example when Jerry went to Viet Nam to help starving children. What’s working and how can we do more of it? This model was also used in the book ‘Whale Done’ by Ken Blanchard and ‘Whale Done in Schools’ by Cindy Zurchin.

The authors write about a ‘School Story’ that made changes in three rules:

  1. Arriving to class on time
  2. Completing assignments in class
  3. Behaving acceptably in class.

Result:  80% increase in success.

Amen.  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.

Psychologists say we have a predilection of negative.

            24 most common “emotion” words.  Only 6 are positive.

            Angry              Annoyed                                  Appalled                      Apprehensive

            Ashamed         Bewildered                              Betrayed                      Confused

            Confident        Cheated                                   Cross                           Depressed

            Delighted        Disappointed                          Ecstatic                       Excited

            Emotional       Envious                                   Embarrassed               Furious

            Frightened      Great                                       Happy                         Horrified

In the English language 62% of the words are negative and 38% are positive. Bad is stronger than good. 

So, focusing on Whale Done and Positive Deviant strategies offer a positive alternative to ‘Theory X’ management styles.  As Diane Baumrind, UC Berkeley posits, children need three things.

  1. Boundaries
  2. Consequences
  3. Choices

When I do workshop on the ‘Goldilocks Theory of Parenting’ the first slide is a brick wall.  These parents have boundaries and consequences.  NO Choices.

Second Slide is Jell-O.  No boundaries or consequences.  MANY choices.

Neither works without unintended consequences.

Too many choices can sink any system by the overwhelming options. Ambiguity is exhausting to the rider. The rider is tugging on the reins of the Elephant, trying to direct the Elephant down a new path. When the road is uncertain, the Elephant will insist on taking the default path, the most familiar path.  Uncertainly makes the elephant anxious. 

In highly successful change efforts people find ways to help others see the problems or solutions in ways that influence emotions, not just thought.  Analytical tools work best when ‘parameters are known, assumptions are minimal, and the future is not fuzzy.’

Dunning Kruger Effect: People believe they are better than they are. We all think we are above average drivers.  This is called positive illusion.  Our brains are positive illusion factories:  Only 2% of high school seniors believe their leadership skills are below average.  25% of people believe they are in the top 1% in their ability to get along with others.  94% of college professors’ report doing above average work.  People think there at lower risk than their peers for heart attacks, cancer, and even food-related illness e.g., salmonella.

Shrink the Change. Examples:

  • Maids who were told they were good exercisers because of their jobs lost an average of 1.8 pounds in one month.
  • When a car wash started a frequent wash program, those who started with two stamps to get going had 34% of the customers complete a free wash compared to 19% of those who started from scratch.

The Elephant hates doing things with no immediate payoff.  To get the elephant off its duff, you need to reassure it that the task won’t be so bad.  Look, it’s just 5 minutes. Hope is precious to a change effort. It’s Elephant fuel.

John Wooden: “When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur…  Don’t look for the quick, big improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts.”

We are not just born with an identity; we adopt identities throughout our lives.  Any change effort that violates someone’s identity is likely doomed to failure.  This is the reason ‘Finding Your Why’ is so important.  What drives you?  What contributes to being successful.  Dan Dominguez, WHY Institute trains people to help others find their WHY.

In my experience, as a leadership coach and WHY certified, once people are validated on their Why, How, and What, positive emotions and actions follow. When your WHY is aligned with your passion, magic happens.

Wood & Davis wanted to know why so many nurses were leaving. So, they studied why nurses were staying. Nurses that had a strong identity for helping people were staying. So, they tried to find ways to recognize people for extraordinary nursing performance.

The growth mindset is a buffer against defeatism.  You need to perceive falling down as learning rather than failure.  Failing is often the best way to learn. Jefferson County High Schools has a new grading system:  A, B, C, and NY (not yet).  Making changes stick, you got to think about the path.

SHAPE THE PATH – Tweak the Environment. Lee Ross, Stanford – people have a systemic tendency to ignore the situational forces that shape other people’s behavior. He called this deep-rooted tendency the “Fundamental Attribution Error.”  The error lies in our inclination to attribute people’s behavior to the way they are rather than to the situation they are in.

As you try to make a switch, the hardest struggle will be to maintain motivation to keep your Elephant on the road.  This puts a huge burden on the Rider. This is why a coach is very valuable to help put you on the right road and, more importantly, keep you on the road.  Marshall Goldsmith, the number one business coach for ten years in a row, has a coach to check in on his own goals.  Bill’s question:  Are you coachable?

Managing the contrarians can be challenging for a leader. At the same time, it can be rewarding. Brad Bird at Pixar gets contrarians in a room to create new and exciting pictures.  If you want to change the culture of your organization, you’ve got to get the reformers together.  They need free space. They need time to coordinate outside the gaze of the resisters.

Change rarely happens unless it is motivated by feeling.  Environment can act as a powerful brake or accelerant on our behavior.

When change happens, it tends to follow a pattern. We’ve got to stop ignoring that pattern and start embracing it.

The pattern is they directed the Rider, they motivated the Elephant, and they shaped the Path, and now it’s your pattern.  What will you switch?

How To Make a Switch

Direct the Rider

  • Follow the Bright Spots
  • Script the Critical Moves
  • Point to the Destination

Motivate the Elephant

  • Find the Feeling
  • Shrink the Change
  • Grow Your People

Shape the Path

  • Tweak the Environment
  • Build Habits
  • Rally the Herd

Overcoming Obstacles – 12 common problems:  page 261

  1. People don’t see the need to change
  2. I’m having the “not invented here” problem: people resist my ideas because they say we’ve never done it like that before.
  3. We should be doing something, but we’re getting bogged down in analysis
  4. The environment has shifted, and we need to overcome our old patterns of behavior
  5. People simply aren’t motivated to change
  6. I’ll change tomorrow
  7. People keep saying “It will never work,”
  8. I know what I should be doing, but I’m not doing it.
  9. You don’t know my people. They absolutely hate change
  10. People were excited at first, but then we hit some rough patches and lost momentum
  11. It’s just too much
  12. Everyone seems to agree that we need to change, but nothing’s happening.

Next Steps – www.switchthebook.com/resources

Switch, the book, contains many examples. I recommend buying and reading it.

Bill’s Note:  See if the SWITCH metaphor fits for you and your organization.  Dan & Chip have provided an alternative pathway.  Why not try to steer the elephant down a productive path?