Change Management: What can be learned from the book “Switch”?


Switch is a compelling, story-driven narrative the Heaths use to bring together decades of research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can engage our emotions and reason to create real change.

The book is arranged around an analogy that illustrates the crux of emotional intelligence: when making a decision we are typically torn between our rational, logical reasons and our emotional, intuitive feelings. Chip and Dan ask us to imagine an Elephant and its Rider. The Rider represents the rational and logical. Tell the Rider what to do, provide a good argument and the Rider will do it. The Elephant, on the other hand, represents our emotions, our gut response. If the Rider can direct the Elephant down a well-prepared path then there is a good chance for change. Otherwise, the massive elephant is bound to win.



Key Concepts

I. Direct the Rider:
– Find the bright spots
– Script the critical moves
– Point to the destination

II. Motivate the Elephant:
– Find the feeling
– Shrink the Change;
– Grow your people

III. Shape the Path:
– Tweak the environment
– Build habits
– Rally the herd

To explain the three methods, they use the illustration of riding an elephant in the jungle. The Rider (the mind) can control the Elephant (the emotions) as long as the elephant is agreeable. The trip (change) will be more successful if the rider and elephant follow a path that is comfortable for the elephant and well defined by the rider.
The authors use real-world examples (“clinics” inserted throughout the book), illustrations that are applicable and concepts that seem more commonsense than revelatory. The authors have a realistic view that change IS difficult, but it does not have to be impossible, regardless of what that change is and it can often begin with a relatively small change in either the Rider, the Elephant or the Path.

As they explain in the first chapter, “In this book, we argue that successful changes share a common pattern. They require the leader of change to do three things at once: To change someone’s behavior, you’ve got to change that person’s situation…[to cope with the fact that change] is hard because people wear themselves out. And that’s the second surprise about change: What looks like laziness is often exhaustion…If you want people to change, you must provide crystal clear direction [because what] looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.”

Adoption of Switch principles to the ACT Leadership approach

The ACT Leadership logo is based around a “whole mind” approach. Effective Change Management strategies require all aspects of the mind to be stimulated. We use Critical Thinking, Storytelling and Creativity workshops, Acting principles as tools to bring about effective change. Our Consulting methodology is based around these principles when involved in the early stage design process. We recommend Coaching and Cultural Assessments early on to determine the “mood” of the organization.

ACT is an internationally recognized coaching, leadership development and consulting company known for its commitment to leadership and performance coaching, valuing its long term partnerships with Brown University, the intelligence communities and its loyal and devoted diverse community.