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



Looks to the future

Directs and plans

Emotional side/Elephant


Feels emotions

Lives in the moment


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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