Make the switch: Explore three surprises about change

The nonprofit sector is no exception in an era of change on the heels of economic uncertainty. New strategies and ideas are a necessity for survival as opposed to a “wouldn’t-it-be-nice” consideration. Whether you seek change in your home, organization or society, the applications in Switch abound.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath address specific examples of successful change using strategies such as a social worker who improved the diets of malnourished Vietnamese children by studying “bright spots”; a young college graduate who saved a national bird from extinction by “growing his people”; and a school teacher who “pointed to the destination” to transform her underperforming students into math geniuses.

The examples go on, and so can readers’ results if they apply the patterns Switch spells out for successful change. Early in the book, the Heath brothers explore three important surprises about change that set the stage for their modeling a successful switch.

The first surprise is “what looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.” Said differently, if you want people to succeed you need to provide them with specific and clear instructions. (Direct the Rider)

The second surprise is that “change is hard because people wear themselves out” and “what looks like laziness is often exhaustion.” The idea behind this notion is based on research that shows us that “self-control is an exhaustible resource.” The authors refer to self-control, not in terms of willpower per say, but in terms of “self-supervision,” or tasks that require concentration or deliberate speech or movement, such as organizing a drawer or learning a new language. The reason why this matters for change is that new behavior requires self-supervision or purposeful behavior as opposed to not changing and staying on autopilot. “The Rider can’t get his way by force for very long. So it’s critical that you engage people’s emotional side”—get their Elephants on board. ( Motivate the Elephant)

The third surprise is that “what looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.” In other words, most of us tend to blame the person when something doesn’t change the way we expect it to. Heath and Heath argue that in reality, it’s often a matter of “tweaking the environment.” (Shape the Path)

Find more information about Switch at Random House, visit our CausePlanet summary store or subscribe to our monthly Page to Practice summaries. Keep up with what we’re reading on Facebook and Twitter. Read next week’s blog about the three surprises about change.

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