Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Book cover for Switch

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

By Chip Heath, Dan Heath
Broadway Business, 2010

“Change is hard.” “People hate change.” Those were two of the most common quotes we heard when we began to study change.

But it occurred to us that if people hate change, they have a funny way of showing it. Every iPhone sold serves as counter-evidence. So does every text message sent, every corporate merger finalized, every aluminum can recycled. And we haven’™t even mentioned the biggest changes: Getting married. Having kids. (If people hate change, then having a kid is an awfully dumb decision.)

It puzzled us — why do some huge changes, like marriage, come joyously, while some trivial changes, like submitting an expense report on time, meet fierce resistance?

We found the answer in the research of some brilliant psychologists who’™d discovered that people have two separate “systems” in their brains — ”a rational system and an emotional system. The rational system is a thoughtful, logical planner. The emotional system is, well, emotional — ”and impulsive and instinctual.

When these two systems are in alignment, change can come quickly and easily (as when a dreamy-eyed couple gets married). When they’™re not, change can be grueling (as anyone who has struggled with a diet can attest).

In those situations where change is hard, is it possible to align the two systems? Is it possible to overcome our internal “schizophrenia” about change? We believe it is.

In our research, we studied people trying to make difficult changes: People fighting to lose weight and keep it off. Managers trying to overhaul an entrenched bureaucracy. Activists combating seemingly intractable problems such as child malnutrition. They succeeded — and, to our surprise, we found striking similarities in the strategies they used. They seemed to share a similar game plan. We wanted, in Switch, to make that game plan available to everyone, in hopes that we could show people how to make the hard changes in life a little bit easier.

Selected Editorial Reviews
... The Heath brothers think that the sciences of human behavior can provide us with tools for making changes in our lives — ”tools that are more effective than "willpower", "leadership" and other easier-said-than-done solutions. The authors explain a couple of fundamental principles of psychology and distill from them concise recommendations for bringing about change. They convey their ideas primarily through stories about people, companies and organizations that have successfully undertaken major realignments, sometimes in the face of long odds. By approaching their argument this way, the authors are following the advice they gave in 'Made to Stick' (2007), which used research findings to explain how to communicate messages in memorable ways ...
Christopher F. Chabris, The Wall Street Journal, Feb 18, 2010
... the brothers Heath take on the subject of organizational change, and they make the often dry, sentimental, and buzz-word-laden subject suddenly relevant for anyone trying to get a bunch of people to change directions... Any leader looking to create change in his organization need not look beyond this little book. It is packed with examples and hands-on tools that will get you moving right away. And it is really a fun read.
Keith McFarland, BusinessWeek.com, Feb 23, 2010
The Heath brothers (coauthors of Made to Stick) address motivating employees, family members, and ourselves in their analysis of why we too often fear change. Change is not inherently frightening, but our ability to alter our habits can be complicated by the disjunction between our rational and irrational minds: the self that wants to be swimsuit-season ready and the self that acquiesces to another slice of cake anyway. The trick is to find the balance between our powerful drives and our reason. The authors' lessons are backed up by anecdotes that deal with such things as new methods used to reform abusive parents, the revitalization of a dying South Dakota town, and the rebranding of megastore Target. Through these lively examples, the Heaths speak energetically and encouragingly on how to modify our behaviors and businesses. This clever discussion is an entertaining and educational must-read for executives and for ordinary citizens looking to get out of a rut. (© Reed Business Information)
Publishers Weekly
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