At its simplest, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath boils down to three statements. In order to made a switch (a change when change is hard), you need to do the following things.

  1. Direct the Rider.
  2. Motivate the Elephant.
  3. Shape the Path.

Those phrases don't make a lot of sense on their own, but think of the human-decision making process. We have both an emotional side and a logical side. The Heath brothers discuss those ideas like an elephant rider in a circus. The elephant (human emotion) is big and powerful, but it is able to be guided. The rider (human logic) can shape the path of the elephant, but the large animal is still capable of getting away from the control of the rider.

The path, in this case, refers to the set of circumstances in which change happens. Those circumstances need to be molded to make change easier.

If you pick up the book and go to the end, you'll find some amazing resources, including a one-page summary of the book's contents. It makes the most sense if you've actually read the book, of course, but here is a quick overview.

Direct the Rider

The first method is to "follow the bright spots," which means to basically do a lot more of what is already working. The real trick is recognizing what is actually going well in a situation where so much is against you.

The other methods include "scripting the critical moves" (pointing out a specific, achievable behavior to implement change) and "pointing to the destination" (moving towards large, inspiring goals).

Motivate the Elephant

All the logic and goals in the world won't work without "finding the feeling" (creating an emotional, visual, tactile way of expressing the need for change). When the amount of adjustment seems overwhelming, then it's essential to "shrink the change." The authors related stories of 5-minute cleaning sessions instead of trying to clean the entire house all at once.

The third recommendation for appealing to emotion is to "grow your people," which more specifically means to "cultivate a sense of identity." By instilling people with the idea that they are, for example creative people, then people will more likely have the confidence to make art and find new ways to innovate. It's a mindset that says, "Yes, I am that kind of person."

Shape the Path

Here is a point that can easily be ignored in times of change. Making a switch isn't just about the logic and emotion behind it, but there are situations and circumstances that have to be overcome in order to see growth. It's not fair to blame everything on the situation, but it must be dealt with.

The broadest of the recommendations, then, is to "tweak the environment" (think of the incentive for shoppers when 1-click ordering became available). Next is to "build habits", an idea that has exploded in popularity over the past few years. The fact is, it works.

The final recommendation is to "rally the herd". Basically, use peer pressure in a positive way, whether that's helping one another commit to a diet or getting an entire hospital staff to change important practices.

The examples presented throughout the book help to expand the two Heaths' ideas even further, making the implementation of these recommendations even more effective.

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