I recently read an amazing book that I found to be inspiring, I would like to share it with you in hopes that it will inspire you to make a positive change in your life. Here is what I learned.

Studies show that in order to understand change it is important to know how the human mind is structured. Switch, by Chip Heath (psychologist at Stanford University) and Dan Heath, (psychologist and senior fellow at Duke University’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE)), explore how to effectively transform change by “…discovering that our minds are ruled by two systems — the rational mind and the emotional mind — that compete for control.” Successful change is determined by uniting both systems and by shaping a path to change.

“Whether the switch you seek is in your family, in your charity, in your organization, or in society at large, you’ll get there by making three things happen. ”(page 24)

You can implement change through the Heaths plan, which they call: Direct the Rider, Motivate the Elephant, and Shape the Path.

How do we make a change?

Direct the Rider. Your rational mind, also known as the Rider, likes to over-analyze situations, therefore clarity is key. Switch has made change much simpler to understand, by creating a set of steps that serve as a guide. 
1. Look for the bright spots. Bright spots are successful efforts worth imitating. What better way to do this, than through curiosity and being observant. As I learned in Ellen Petry Leanse’s class, Unleashing Creative Innovation and Building Great Products, the first step in the design thinking process is empathy. Empathizing with the problem at hand helps you discover possible solutions in your environment. Once you’ve discovered how and why it’s working, you must clone it. 2. Script the Critical moves. In order to reduce the anxiety of the uncertainty, we must provide a clear direction. It is important to keep it simple, concentrating only on the specific behaviors you want to change, rather than the big picture. 3. Point to the destination. It’s simple, use Destination Postcards. Destination postcards consist of depicting a clear picture of the future that can be achieved through hard work. By describing the destination, you successfully inspire hope that change is possible.

“Destination postcards do double duty: They show the Rider where you’re headed, and they show your Elephant why the journey is worthwhile.” (page 82)
Ornate Elephant Navajo. Digital image. Bioworkz Visual Designer & Illustrator. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.bioworkz.com/>.

Motivate the Elephant. Your emotional mind has the power and energy required to change.

“… if you’re contemplating a change, the Elephant is the one who gets things done. To make progress towards a goal, whether it’s noble or crass, requires the energy and drive of the Elephant.” (page 8)

As David Rock teaches us in his book Your Brain At Work, to accomplish a more successful change it is ideal to target positive feelings from your audience.

“To solve bigger, more ambiguous problems, we need to encourage open minds, creativity and hope” (page 123)

1. Find the feeling. Successful behavioral changes happen mostly by speaking to people’s feelings, knowing isn’t enough.

“… in almost all successful change efforts, the sequence of change is not ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE, but rather SEE-FEEL-CHANGE. You’re presented with evidence that makes you feel something.” (page 106)

2.Shrink the change. Break the challenge into small steps. This will help your Elephant (emotional mind) to be motivated by small and achievable victories. 3. Grow your people. Create a sense of identity, self image, something that makes you proud.

“It shows us that people are receptive to developing new identities, that identities “grow” from small beginnings. Once you start seeing yourself as a “concerned citizen” you’ll want to keep acting like one.”(page 161)

Shape the path.

“If you want people to change, you can provide clear direction (Rider) or boost their motivation (Elephant). Alternatively, you can simply make the journey easier. Create a steep downhill slope and give them a push. Remove some friction from the trail. Scatter around lots of signs to tell them they’re getting close. In short, you can shape the path.” (page 181)

Problems are often seen as problems of the people when they are actually situational problems. An effective way to override this is by modifying your environment. 1.Tweak the environment.

“Tweaking the environment is about making the right behaviors a little bit easier and the wrong behaviors a little bit harder.” (page 183)

Over lunch, my friend Ana and I came across a bright spot. Her teacher, wanting to motivate people to collaborate more in class, arranged the students in a circle, rather than in rows one behind the other. By making this change, students engaged in deeper conversations by seeing and listening to each other. 2. Build habits. As we learned in Your Brain at Work, habits don’t require too much cognitive attention, therefore it’s more of an automatic behavior.

“They are, in essence, behavioral autopilot. They allow lots of good behaviors to happen without the Rider taking charge.” (page 207)

3. Rally the herd. People constantly look to others for cues on how to behave. If we dig deeper in scientific research, we know that our brain reacts in a similar way with mirror neurons. It’s often common that if you are having an emotional conversation with someone, and he or she is feeling sad, most likely you will imitate their feelings unconsciously. Interested in making a societal change? Look no further, behavior is contagious.

“We’ve seen that behavior is contagious at the individual level (obesity and tip jars) and a group level. …It probably will not surprise you that your behavior also is contagious at the society level (see bell-bottoms and organic food and the phrase “at the end of the day”).” (page 232)

How do we make change stick?

“A long journey starts with a single step.” (page 250)

Once you have seen movement towards change, you must reinforce it. Change is like any other process, it requires persistence to be successful. Small steps can eventually snowball to a bigger change.

“The people who change have clear direction, ample motivation, and a supportive environment.” (page 255)

Conclusion in progress… :)


Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. New York: Broadway, 2010. Print.

Rock, David. Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

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