About a year ago my sister recommended the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. She had recently been promoted to a leadership role at her workplace and thought based on her recent experiences Switch was a great book for anyone trying to initiate change within an organization. Recently during one of my frequent visits to the public library I happened to spot a copy of it nestled among the other high demand titles on the “Lucky Day” shelf. Following my sister’s advice I grabbed it. After finishing it last week I’m glad a did. The Heath brothers have written a readable and applicable book suitable for anyone who is looking to change an organization, a relationship or just a single person.
The brothers Heath start with a simple schema which identifies the three agents associated with change: “the rider”, “the elephant” and “the path”.
- The Rider- This represents the leadership element in any organization or relationship. While it excels at leading, it can get distracted or confused if confronted with too many options or priorities.
- The Elephant- This represents the emotional element. While being passionate and empathetic, it can also be afraid of change.
- The Path- The road one must take to achieve the desired goals. Finding an effective and appropriate path that works well for both the rider and the elephant is key to achieving successful change.
By providing countless anecdotes from the worlds of business, education and government Chip and Dan Heath show us that yes, change is possible even when it looks like the odds are stacked against us. By identifying “bright spots” in an organization where things are working well we can in turn replicate those recipes for success and apply them throughout the larger organization. In a similar fashion, we can improve morale by celebrating minor victories and in the process build upon a series of positive accomplishments. We can also change our habits by taking concrete and replicable steps which ultimately lead to overall improvement.
I found Switch to be a pretty straightforward book. Since book’s authors include so many examples, the reader pretty much “gets it” every time. As far as assigning a particular “style” to the book, I thought it combined the structure of a pop-biz/self-help book with some elements of the “big picture” books of Malcolm Gladwell. It’s not flashy, but it’s not dry and boring either. It was probably written to be used a tool for those desiring change. Keeping that in mind, I’ll go out on a limb and say it probably does a fine job helping its readers do just that.