Switch by Chip & Dan Heath

Switch is about how to change behavior, whether of individuals or organizations or societies.  The book is full of research and case studies to help you do just that.  It’s well worth a read; I know I’ll read it again.

They use Jonathon Haidt’s metaphor (which he in turn took from the Buddha) of the elephant (our emotions) and the rider (our reason) to represent the tremendous inertia involved in accomplishing change.

Change in behavior requires three things: clearly state the desired behavior (direct the rider); engage the emotions (motivate the elephant); change a hard problem (teaching people to think differently) into an easy problem (give them smaller popcorn buckets), i.e., change the situation by shaping the path.  The trick is to accomplish all three simultaneously.

In order to direct the rider, we need to learn to look for behaviors that lead to positive outcomes.  They point to research that indicates human nature tends to do just the opposite: we focus on behavior that leads to negative outcomes.  Looking for positive behaviors is itself a learned behavior that requires some practice.

We need to clearly describe for the rider what the critical moves are in order to accomplish the positive behavior.  The most successful goals are behavioral goals, not outcomes.  Until you can describe an idea for change as a behavior, you’re not ready to change.

Show the rider his destination in a way that captures his imagination.  In other words, show the rider how changing his behavior will change his identity.

The elephant has all the inertia.  That inertia is the embodied feelings of the elephant.  To move the elephant you have to move it emotionally; visually, sensually, or via a story.  Numbers won’t move the elephant.

Another way to motivate the elephant is to make it think it’s almost there, that the destination is close.  Break a large task into small steps, and get the elephant to move one step at a time.  Make the change small enough they can’t help but score a victory.

We adopt identities throughout our lives.  Make your change a matter of identity rather than consequences.

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