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4.7 out of 5 stars
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Chip and Dan Heath have once again summoned a lively writing style to present a series of compelling insights that make this book even more interesting as well as more valuable than its predecessor, Made to Stick. As they explain in the first chapter, "In this book, we argue that successful changes share a common pattern. They require the leader of change to do three things at once: To change someone's behavior, you've got to change that person's situation...[to cope with the fact that change] is hard because people wear themselves out. And that's the second surprise about change: What looks like laziness is often exhaustion...If you want people to change, you must provide crystal clear direction [because what] looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity." Throughout, the Heaths work within a narrative, best viewed as a "three-part framework," as they provide countless real-world (as opposed to hypothetical or theoretical] examples and - to their great credit - also provide a context or frame-of-reference for each.

Moreover, the Heaths invoke a few extended metaphors. The most important of these are the Rider (i.e. our rational side), the Elephant, (i.e. our emotional and instinctive side) and the Path (i.e. the surrounding environment in which change initiatives will be conducted). The challenge is to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path to make change more likely, "no matter what's happening with the Rider and Elephant...If you can do all three at once, dramatic change can happen even if you don't have lots of power or resources behind you."

Donald Berwick offers an excellent case in point. In 2004, in his position as a doctor and the CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), he had developed some ideas as to "how to save lives - massive numbers of lives" and his ideas were so well-supported by research that they were indisputable and yet "little was happening" until he spoke at a professional meeting and proposed six very specific interventions to save lives. Within two months, more than 1,000 hospitals had signed up. Eighteen months later, to the day (June 14, 2006) he had previously announced that he'd promised to return, he announced the results: "Hospitals enrolled in the 100,000 Lives Campaign have collectively prevented an estimated 122,300 avoidable deaths and, as importantly, have begun to institutionalize new standards of care that will continue to save lives and improve health outcomes into the future." He had directed his audience's Riders (i.e. hospital administrators), he had motivated his audience's Elephants by making them feel the compelling need for change, and he had shaped the Path by making it easier for the hospitals to embrace the change. The Heaths offer more than a dozen other prime examples (e.g. Jerry Sternin in Vietnam, the Five-Minute Room Rescue, "Fataki" in Tanzania) that also demonstrate how the same three-part framework resulted in the achievement of major changes elsewhere despite great difficulty.

Near the end of the book, the Heaths summarize the key points they have so thoroughly made while explaining to their reader how to make a switch. "For things to change, somebody somewhere has to start acting differently. Maybe it's you, maybe it's your team. Picture the person (or people). Each has an emotional Elephant side and a rational Rider side. You've got to reach both. And you've also got to clear the way for them to succeed." By now, the Heaths have explained how others have directed the Rider, motivated the Elephant, and shaped the Path. They conclude their book with a Q&A section during which they advise how to resolve twelve problems that people most often encounter as they fight for change. They suggest, and I agree, that this advice "won't make sense to anybody who hasn't read the book." The same can probably be said about much of what I have shared in this review.

Although, in my opinion, this is one of the most important business books published during the last several years, no commentary such as mine can do full justice to it. It simply must be read and read carefully, preferably then re-read carefully. Otherwise, it makes no sense to visit [...] to obtain additional information and assistance.

I offer my congratulations to Chip and Dan Heath on a brilliant achievement. Bravo!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon January 31, 2011
Perhaps the most helpful way to think of this book would be a Malcolm Gladwell type collection of anecdotes along with an added component to help you think about making application. In other words this is a self-help book that might actually be helpful. The book looks at motivation, keeping it simple enough that everybody can follow along. The 3 components involved are referred to as "Rider", "Elephant" and "Path". If you actually read this book you'll have no problem picking up on what they mean by each term. This book is aimed at the general public, not CEOs, so they focus on ways of making change happen that can work even if you aren't in a position to give orders - even if the people you are trying to motivate aren't accountable to you. You'll learn about common pitfalls like "Fundamental attribution error" and the "fixed mindset" that can undermine change. And lots of other cool and useful stuff. No silly promises are made about making everything wonderful forever - this is a book firmly grounded in the real world. Highly recommended, in other words.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2010
Based on the authors'' previous book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, I enthusiastically searched for an advance copy to read before the release date. The effort was worth it, I recommend Switch!

Professionally, I design health and wellness products and services, so influencing behaviour and helping people change is relevant for me. This is a book about making change on a personal and organizational level -' it''s an accessible read on psychodynamics designed around a set of simple maxims to help you understand and influence change in everyday life.

There is some similarity with Nudge, by Thaler and Sunstein, another excellent book focused on influencing behavior. Nudge is an academic treatment of decision making, focused on the cognitive process. Nudge beats you over the head with evidence (it''s long) and it''s less actionable than Switch, however, I still recommend Nudge for those who are serious about design, marketing, business, public policy, education etc. Read it after Switch' they offer different things.

In Switch, the Heath brothers illustrate the dichotomy between the thinking rational self and the feeling instinctive self and how they can work together to bring about change. They also focus on our social environment 'how one''s context can influence behavior.

Simply and effectively, the authors' use an analogy to explain how to change behavior: Direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path.

Picture the elephant rider as the classic Hindi mahout, the word is a derivative of the Sanskrit mahamatra, meaning one "having great measure." The powerful and instinctual elephant is a metaphor for our motivations (emotions) and the path as the context for triggering action. Now you can imagine the rider guiding the elephant along a defined path. One cannot move forward without the other,' our thoughts and emotions create a dynamic force when channeled in one direction. This is a powerful axiom for change. Think of the SUCCESS model from the authors' last book Making it Stick.

Practitioners of traditional yoga may appreciate the elephant metaphor '- yoga recognizes the union of conscious and subconscious.

The individual concepts presented are not novel, but the assembly and presentation is (for me). This book is catchy. There was a lot of familiar material for me '(my educational background was in biology and psychology)' so I would have enjoyed if the book went a layer deeper in some of its explanations. That said, the book was well organized and the authors made a strong case for their viewpoint. This is an easy and enjoyable read, but also thought-provoking and convincing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2010
This book is down-to-earth and super user-friendly. Life-changingly useful in very practical ways. It's given me new hope that change is easier than I thought possible.
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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.
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on August 29, 2011
I would trade all of the books and lectures I have attended and read on change and change management for one copy of Switch.

Switch explains the concepts of any successful change, clearly and effectively.

The main concept of the book is explained in the first few pages, and each chapter provides greater depth, insight and a wealth of examples. Each story captured my attention and each message clear. As I read, I was visualizing action items I could apply to my situation at work. I now view problems at work (and at home) differently and I feel armed with a tool that allows me to see situations for what they are. I am more effective and confident in my analysis.

Most importantly, Switch is an enjoyable read, with lots of benefits.
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Fantastic book. Writing a book on change is a monumental task. To cover the full breadth would take a 100 volume collection... it is important to remember what it means to cover this subject in just one book!

For that, I believe Heath brothers did a fantastic job, picking up only the key elements and making practical suggestions that have proven results.

It is one of those books that you want to read more than once.
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on May 10, 2013
The Heath brothers have a real knack for clearly describing complex issues in compelling ways.

Well done!

This book would be great for anyone wanting to understand why changes occurs or doesn't and how to get people and organizations to change their behavior.
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on February 14, 2012
I liked this book a lot. It's full a real experience cases, it helps us understand more. I found tips to apply for my work as well as for my kids. It's easy to read and even funny some times. Great book. It's worth your money.
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on November 19, 2012
Immediately after reading this book I found myself recommending it to half of the people I met. It has awesome advice and the Heath brothers are very witty authors. I want to make some posters to represent each step.
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