Book Review: Switch

Full Title: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath

5 out of 5 stars | Read the summary on Goodreads

Switch takes a complex problem and breaks it down so you can actually solve it: how to make change. Whether it’s trying to lose weight, save more, or stop a cycle of addition, the Heath brothers provide a clear framework to success.

1.       Direct the Rider

The “Rider” is their metaphor for the voice inside your head that overthinks your every move. It allows you to make analytical and rational decisions, but imagine a competent rider trying to direct a giant, hulking elephant of your emotions and you’ve got the essential dilemma of change: managing the rider and the elephant.

Directing the rider means knowing your destination. What change are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to change the right aspect of the problem?

2.       Motivate The Elephant

The Elephant. This is why we have trouble changing. It’s a giant, hulking beast intent on going wherever it wants to go whether you want to go there or not. It’s the voice that argues with the rider when you want one more cookie (and you have it) or skip the gym. Motivating the elephant requires feeling and identity. How does this change mesh with my idea of who I am and what I stand for? How does it make me feel?

3.       Shape the Path

In the past, I’ve reviewed Nudge, and it’s clear the Heath brothers read this as well. What seems like a people problem is often a situational one. They use the great example of traffic. How often do you call someone a jerk (or worse) when they cut you off, instead of asking “What’s going on in their life that’s making them act like a crazy driver?” We do this all the time (it’s called fundamental attribution error).

By making tweaks to the environment that smooth the path to change, you can “nudge” them along in the right direction. Organize things so that you can get them done and get to your original destination.

As always, the Heath brothers use colorful examples and constantly refer back to them, cementing the knowledge with a wide variety of instances to show: successful change is a pattern. I’m incredibly inspired by this book as an aspiring change-maker and would recommend this for anyone looking to be more innovative and bring people along with them.

A good change leader never thinks, “Why are these people acting so badly? They must be bad people.” A change leader thinks, “How can I set up a situation that brings out the good in these people?