A Review: Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

Switch is a book by Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick, about changing and how to get others to change.

I started this book with some skepticism, having heard of the book Change or Die and its basic thesis: Change or Die tells about those people who were told (truthfully) that either you change your life or you will die. According to the book, 95% of the people in that study could not change. (I still have to read that book!)

If we can’t change with that kind of ultimate rational choice, what will make us change? Dan and Chip weave together a lot of anecdotes as well as many studies that showed different parts of what makes us change.

The brothers introduce us to the concept of the Elephant (our emotional side) and the Rider (our rational and reasoning side) – a concept originated by Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis. The book goes in depth into how to get both the Elephant and its Rider pointed in the same direction, and to draw them towards change.

The three major portions of the book relate to the Rider (“Direct the Rider”), the Elephant (“Motivate the Elephant”), and the Path taken (“Shape the Path”). The chapters are replete with anecdotes and studies backing up what the authors are presenting as a way to make change happen.

This book also draws from two of my favorite authors, Maria Cilley (the “FlyLady”), author of Sink Reflections, and David Allen, author of Getting Things Done. Both espouse a sort of “shrinking” of change to make it easier, simpler. Both Cilley and Allen talk about doing something simple to start with on the way to something much grander.

The book distills things down to simple elements, but sometimes seems to degrade slightly into allegory and similes instead of concrete memory aids. As long as you understand the simile, it works – but to “make it stick” you might want something more specific.

This book will change how you look at change, and perhaps will change your life. It can change how you approach getting a new project going at work, and can help you present radical change in way that will make things happen.

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