I found this book called Switch – How to Change Things when Change is Hard when I was meandering around a store in Boston in need of some inspiration and have been preaching its merits ever since. I bought a copy for my father-in-law when he was heading the Singapore factory operations of a large multinational. He’s read loads of these management-style books so didn’t seem overly enthralled with his Christmas present, but then went on to buy copies for all his senior management team. Praise indeed.
Its written by the Heath brothers who also wrote the top-selling Made to Stick, and brings together research in psychology, sociology and other fields to shed light on how to make transformative change, whether its at work, home or even to yourself (my husband was nervous about being the unwitting subject of my discoveries). The whole idea is based around the fact that the brain has two independent systems at work at all the times – the rational ‘rider’ side, which deliberates, analyses and looks into the future, and the emotional ‘elephant’ side, which is instinctive and feels pain and pleasure.
To make change you have to reach both by doing three key things:
– Direct the rider: discover what is working already that supports the change, however big or small, and clone it. Script out the critical moves to make it happen and point to the destination – in other words, provide a vision.
– Motivate the elephant: Find the feeling – just knowing something isn’t enough to cause change, you need to make people feel something in order to act. Shrink the change – break it down until it no longer spooks the emotional elephant – and grow your people. Cultivate a sense of identity and instil the growth mindset.
– Shape the path: Tweak the environment – when the situation changes, the behaviour changes, so change the situation; build habits to cultivate the change (making it less taxing for the overly analytical rider). Finally, rally the heard – behaviour is contagious, so help spread it.
Simple.Not quite, but it’s a great practical guide with advice that you can start implementing from the get-go. Some of the anecdotes are arguably overly simplistic and contrived to make the point, but help give colour to the theory. The pieces on cloning what’s already working and breaking down the change particularly resonated with me.