Archive for July, 2010

How to make a change: A conversation with “Switch” authors

In the last two weeks, we have explored highlights from our July Page to Practice™ feature: Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. Join us for an excerpt of a conversation with authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath with special thanks to Fortier Public Relations.

Fortier: What was the most surprising discovery you made about change behavior?

Heath Brothers: That self-control is exhaustible, like a muscle. We’ve all experienced this—you have a stressful day at work, and you come home and you snap at your partner, or you have one drink too many. You burned up your self-control at work. And this is critical for change, because all change requires self-control. Not just in the sense of resisting a temptation, like a cookie or a drink, but in the sense that you have to manage your behavior deliberately. So one implication of this is that you shouldn’t pile on too much change at once—don’t pick six New Year’s resolutions, and don’t overhaul every aspect of people’s routines at once at work.

Fortier: In the book, you say we often overcomplicate change. What do you mean by that?

Heath Brothers: When change doesn’t happen, we almost always blame it on the people—people who are too “resistant” or “lazy.” But what looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. For instance, we tell the story of a manager named Amanda Tucker, who got poor ratings on “communication” from her employees. The problem was that, when they’d come in her office, she’d often get distracted by email and try to multitask while they were sitting there. Is Tucker a bad manager? A poor communicator? Well, no. She rearranged her office one afternoon, so that she couldn’t see her monitor, meaning that she wouldn’t be distracted. And—poof—her communication scores went way up. It wasn’t a problem with Amanda, it was a problem with her environment. And the environment was a lot easier to fix.

Fortier: What do you mean by “shaping the path” for change?

Heath Brothers: Small tweaks to the environment can have a big impact. Think about Amazon’s one-click-order button. They have “shaped the path” to an order, making it as easy as humanly possible. Many of us are blind to how much our situations actually shape our behavior. Our surroundings have been carefully designed to make us act in a particular fashion. Traffic engineers want us to drive in a predictable, safe way, so they paint lane markers and install stoplights and signs. Banks got tired of us leaving our ATM cards in the machine, so we have to remove them before we can get cash. We can also act as our own engineers, tweaking the environment so that the right behaviors are easier. A friend of ours lays out his jogging clothes before he goes to bed, so it’ll be just a bit easier to get started the next day.

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.

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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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Appeal to the “elephant” and “rider” for a change

Change is hard—period. Whether your desired change is losing some weight, restructuring your board or trying that new donor cultivation strategy, change is difficult. Why? Because according to Switch authors and brothers, Chip Heath and Dan Heath, we are of two minds: the rational and the emotional.

In Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, the Heath brothers use a wide variety of interesting narrative examples to illustrate how change follows a pattern we can control if we acknowledge what they call the “Rider” (rational brain), the “Elephant” (emotional brain) and the importance of “Shaping the Path” (creating a clear path for success).

By identifying consistent patterns in the examples they observe, the authors create a compelling methodology for 1) directing the Rider; 2) motivating the Elephant; and 3) Shaping the Path, and they provide tactical strategies within each of these three components of change.

The Heath brothers begin Switch with a baseline understanding of change or, rather, the misunderstandings of change. They debunk our perceptions by uncovering “three surprises about change” and letting us in on their terminology for what numerous studies prove—that we have two independent systems in our brain.

Rational side/Rider

Deliberates

Analyzes

Looks to the future

Directs and plans

Emotional side/Elephant

Instinctive

Feels emotions

Lives in the moment

Energetic

In order to create change, you have to appeal to both the Rider and Elephant. The Rider provides the planning and direction and the Elephant is the power behind the plan. If you don’t appeal to both, the Elephant will overpower the Rider or the Rider will get stuck in analysis, leaving the Elephant without a place to direct its energy.

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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