Book Summary: Switch

Change is difficult in general; you may check-in with your New Year's Resolutions on February 1 to see how difficult it is. Consider how difficult it is to make significant changes, such as feeding hungry, emaciated children in Africa.

The circus, it seems, holds the key to making the world a better place. The elephants and the humans who ride them are under the large cover and bright lights.


Yep. Allow me to explain.

As described by the Heath brothers, the Elephant is the dominating emotional decision-making component. It constantly wins, and it almost always seeks the quickest return on investment. However, it also supplies the necessary energy to complete the task.

The Rider is the rational decision-maker who considers all aspects of the situation and the long term. Regardless of how much we believe we are rational humans, it typically takes a back seat.

This fantastic book will teach you how to:

Direct the Rider by doing the following:

  1. looking for the bright side
  2. scripting crucial actions
  3. pointing to where you need to go

Motivate the Elephant by doing the following:

  1. identifying the emotion
  2. minimizing the change
  3. increasing the size of your team

Provide unambiguous guidance by:

  1. adjusting the surroundings
  2. forming habits
  3. gathering the herd

Change occurs in many different forms and sizes. Though one element is constant: you must change your behavior. This book will teach you how to do it.

Let's get ready to have fun.

Directing the Rider

Finding the Bright Spots

A male individual on a rocket ship showing that he is looking at the bright side.

While directing the Rider, the first thing you should think about is looking at the bright side.

Jerry Sternin came to Vietnam in 1990 to work for Save the Children. What is the issue? Malnutrition is prevalent. There's been common knowledge in this case, as in any other.

According to traditional thought, malnutrition was caused by inadequate hygiene, poverty, and a scarcity of drinkable water. Additionally, the rural population appeared to have little knowledge of nutrition. Isn't that what we should solve if those are the issues?


This is because they were focusing on averages. When they looked into the problem further, they discovered that a few kids were really quite well fed.

Jerry and his colleagues reasoned that if there are some glimmers of hope—kids who've been healthy despite the odds—then every child can be healthy. They only needed to figure out how and why.

So they approached families who appeared to have healthy kids and began digging around. What they discovered was incredible.

They found that although they ate the same quantity of the food as the unhealthy children, the healthy kids' parents fed them 4 times a day rather than 2. The difficulty with feeding malnourished kids twice a day is too much food for them to consume in one sitting.

They also discovered that, even though crabs and shrimp from the rice paddies were not recognized as acceptable for children's eating, the healthy youngsters were obtaining more protein.

Jerry concluded that these folks didn't have motivation issues because every parent wants their kids to be healthy. They did, however, remain ignorant.

As a result, Jerry and his team disseminated this information in culinary workshops that each mom could attend, giving them a sense of control over the situation.

Suddenly, the task doesn't seem daunting, and they've achieved the desired outcomes. Incredible.

So, either:

  • cure the sanitation issue,
  • solve the poverty issue,
  • acquire safe drinking water, or
  • feed your children 4 times a day and toss in some shrimp and crab while you're at it.

Which of the challenges do you believe moms in Vietnam's poorest areas can overcome?

What is the takeaway? When faced with a huge task, search for what's currently working well, irrespective of the sample size.

What is currently working for you? On the surface, it may appear to be an abnormality. However, you might be gazing at the answer to your problem.

Script the Critical Moves

A female leader scripting the next strategies and the critical moves needed to be made to prevent confusion.

We all have to make difficult choices in our lives.

  • What are we going to have for breakfast?
  • Who do we plan on inviting to the high school dance?
  • What jobs should we apply to after graduation?

Plenty of us couldn't even go to a wine store and select a bottle in under 20 minutes.

We all struggle with choice paralysis, as we do with all major life decisions. What if you were the CEO of a train company that needed to repair facilities costing hundreds of millions of dollars but only had 30 million dollars to work with?

As head of Brazil's newly privatized train system, Alexandre Behring found himself in this scenario.

In that circumstance, it would be quite simple to become overwhelmed.

Which of the bridges should be repaired first? What is the best amount of money to spend? Which repairs are actually required?

Behring and his CFO devised four important guidelines to live by in response to this pressure:

  1. Funds would only be put into initiatives that generate more immediate revenue.
  2. In each circumstance, the ideal option is the one that costs the least money upfront, even if it costs more in the long run.
  3. Superior short-term solutions were selected above outstanding long-term ones.
  4. It was preferable to reuse or recycle existing materials than to purchase new ones.

All else faded into the background. And it showed that they were the pivotal decisions since the firm went from big losses to massive profits in 3 years.

Consider what you consider to be your "make or break" factor in each case. Short-term money was indeed the make-or-break situation for Behring and his railway. It may be better for R & D in your company.

In your private life, it may mean going to the gym four times per week so you can work as hard as you do. Whatever it may be, be certain that the important steps in the process are scripted.

Then, use Stephen Covey's expression, but first things first and second things never.

But keep in mind that you won't be able to script everything. So pay attention to what's vital and what'll get you the outcomes you want.

Point to the Destination

A successful team reaching the end destination as they have discussed during the strategy period.

Heavy reliance on reasoning and analysis is among the Rider's worst flaws.

"We need to develop our company next year to be competitive, so here are some flashy graphs showing us why," says the Rider. It enjoys delving into the data and debating the reliability of your figures and conclusions for hours.

In reality, the Rider will usually prefer this over really completing the required things to achieve the goal. The solution is to point to an enticing place—send a postcard with a destination.

As the Heath brothers put it: "destination postcards do double duty: they show the Rider where you're headed, and they show the Elephant why the journey is worthwhile."

That was the issue that a little firm named Microsoft confronted as it developed from a 30-person business to an 80,000-person worldwide behemoth.

Bill Gates founded a computer firm over 30 years ago that could have effectively set reasonable financial goals for its employees. The most obvious thing to do seems to be to set realistic, short-term goals.

On the other hand, Bill wasn't content with simply expanding his business. He was on a mission to transform the world. "A computer on every desk and in every home," he dreamed. That was a big deal at the moment he said those comments.

That was a pipe dream at the time, but it demonstrated rather clearly to both the Rider and the Elephant.

  • It informed the Rider that their mission wasn't completed until they'd installed a computer on every desk and in every home.
  • This was a good excursion for the Elephant, who would have realized how much it would impact how the world works.

Thus, the next time you decide to make a big or minor shift, send a destination postcard with a note about where you're going, and ensure the location is appealing.

Motivate the Elephant

Find the Feeling

Two female friends singing and enjoying themselves, feeling content. By being happy, it motivates feeling of change.

If you ask John Kotter how most individuals consider change, he'll tell you the Analyze-Think-Change formula. We analyze the issue, think of how to improve it, and then plan to change it into action.

But, as Kotter would point out, this isn't how change occurs. The difficulty with this method is that it overlooks one crucial fact: change brings uncertainty.

Lack of certainty does not appeal to the Elephant, and intellectual reasoning will not compel them to act.

Pam Omidyar ran across this dilemma while trying to help kids with cancer take the steps they needed to be healthy.

After a teenager with cancer is discharged from the hospital, they may feel that it's all over. Despite their illness, the disease that destroyed their energy and caused them to lose their hair is already gone.

When they got to their homes, what they had to do to stay healthy was quite straightforward. Report any issues as soon as they occur, and take their medication as directed.

Several kids, however, would refuse to accept the prescription since it would make them ill and induce skin outbreaks, among other problems.

To put it another way, the youngsters didn't grasp the message. They were well aware of the repercussions of their behavior, yet they refused to take the prescription.

Pam's firm, HopeLab, developed Re-Mission, a video game in which kids could physically blast tumor cells through into the bloodstream.

They would view a briefing film between levels that would give additional information on chemo and healing. Though they simply played a few levels, the youths who played this game quadrupled their chances of overcoming cancer.

Utterly amazing.

Pam and her colleagues realized that incorporating "feelings" into the equation substantially alters the outcome. These kids adopted the persona of "cancer-killers" and completely changed their perspective on their pharmaceutical routine.

So that the recipe for change is See-Feel-Change, not Analyze-Think-Change.

Shrink the Change

We are all aware that change is difficult. Taking the initial step is frequently the most difficult element of change.

The difficult part is getting in the car to drive to the gym, not the arduous 60-minute workout once you're there. The difficult part is placing the pen on the paper and writing, not really the 100 pages of writing that flow forth.

Here's an example from the real world. A car wash sponsored a loyalty card offer. Get your car cleaned, and you'll receive a stamp. Come eight times and receive a free vehicle wash. They did, however, do a test using this advertising.

  • Half of the consumers were given a blank card with eight blank spaces to fill up.
  • The other group was given a card with 10 empty slots to fill in, but two stamps were already on the card.

The same thing was required (eight car washes), but one group was given a head start.

The findings were quite eye-opening. Only a few months into the campaign, 19% of the first group had obtained the free wash, whereas 34% of the second group had acquired it. Furthermore, the second group was faster in attaining it.

As it turns out, people are more inspired to complete a long journey than a short one. So the next time you need to encourage someone to achieve a goal, make them feel like they are getting closer to the finish line.

Grow Your People

A group of people relating to the same identity can do incredible thing. So, grow your people to identify with one identity.

We all have a sense of ourselves that we attempt to maintain. Some people associate themselves with political groups, while others engage in noble causes. Certain people define themselves with a particular musical style, while others connect with distinct periods of art.

Whichever identity you have, you've spent your whole life constructing it, one event at a time. It's no shock that we "become" the identities that we build for ourselves and that this identification significantly influences how we make choices.

A manufacturing business in Brazil exploited this understanding to revolutionize their business.

A steel can manufacturer does not conjure up visions of creativity and invention.

That did not deter Brasilita's founders from turning their firm into an invention factory. These outstanding founders felt that if they could persuade their staff to think of themselves as inventors—to make it a part of their identity—they might do incredible things.

As a result, if you work at Brasilita, you will be referred to as an "inventor" and must sign an invention contract. Of course, it had to be more than lip service to succeed; they had to treat their people like innovators and take their proposals for advancement and innovation seriously.

These people evolved into inventors over time, and the organization is known across Latin America as an innovator.

Recognize that when people are faced with a change, they will often ask themselves 3 questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What type of circumstance do we have here?
  • In this case, what would someone like me do?

You may offer individuals a new identity to live into in each setting, or you can simply remind them of someone they already recognize. Dig into their identity, and you'll be able to delve into their behavior.

Shape the Path

Tweak the Environment

The animals in the wildlife act accordingly to their environement.

Although individuals normally act by who they feel they are, their actions are occasionally dictated by the circumstances. Almost all of the time, we overlook this minor detail.

Because we tend to associate people's behavior to who they are instead of the circumstances they are in, Stanford psychologist Lee Ross coined the term "Fundamental Attribution Error." Apparently, animals are subjected to this penalty on occasion.

I know it would never happen in your home, but have you ever visited someone else's home and discovered an unruly pet?

"Well, that's just Stewie; we've done stuff, but he's like that." It can come to the point that the owners consider giving the pet away. Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, is summoned.

Cesar demonstrates that the undesirable behavior is caused by the circumstances in which the animal is placed, not by the animal itself. So he just introduces them to a new disciplinary pattern that alters the scenario, and the animal miraculously transforms into the heavenly picture that the owners had imagined.

Basically, it's about making appropriate behaviors a little easier while making the bad ones a little tougher.

Ask yourself how you can really make the behavior you're searching for a tiny bit simpler. It will help you execute the next time you're in a scenario where individuals just "act" a certain way.

Recall that, unlike Cesar Milan, who doesn't have the luxury of interviewing the dogs, you might want to ask the humans themselves. What occurs when you remove even the tiniest amount of friction from the process will astound you.

Build Habits

We're all creatures of habit. Many are healthy habits, such as Hulk Hogan's "demandments" of training, praying, and taking vitamins. Some of them, such as the seven deadly sins, are bad habits. Such habits become ingrained in the Rider's behavior, and they have little control over them.

Regrettably, we aren't particularly good at figuring out how to develop and maintain these behaviors over time. Remember when you were in college and had a full semester to complete an assignment but spent the night before it was due working hard on it?

Specific research was conducted by Peter Gollwitzer, a psychologist at NYU. A college class was given additional credit for handing in a paper by the conclusion of the semester.

They were simply given the homework in one study, and just 33% of the students finished it. In another research, students were asked to create action triggers, including deciding when and where they would write the report.

"I'll finish the report next Saturday following my morning workout," for example. The report was written by 75% of the pupils.


Gollwitzer emphasizes a few factors here.

First, you must sincerely desire to take action in the first place. If you're not motivated to accomplish anything, action triggers won't help you.

Second, you've virtually handed over control of the issue to the environment; it's a given that you'll be focusing on your report the following Saturday after your workout. The Rider has nothing left to assess and can no longer influence your decision.

Give yourself or someone else an action trigger the next time you want to get them to do something. Make it as precise as possible.

It's also worth noting that research has shown that the more difficult the aim, the more powerful these triggers are. You'll be forming quick habits, which is a powerful thing to accomplish. Do you want a tool that can assist you with this?

Make a to-do list.

Rally the Herd

3 individuals from the same team portraying similar habits and trends as they interact with each other everyday.

Have you ever found yourself in a scenario where you weren't sure what to do? Perhaps it was your first time at a fine dining establishment, and you had no idea which fork to use with salad or even which glass of water belonged to you. What exactly did you do?

You waited till someone who understood what they were doing picked up their salad fork before copying them. So, you do this far more frequently than you think.

You've just booked into a hotel room and found a sign in the restroom instructing you to reuse your towel.

Maybe you might consider it if the notice stated that you should do so because the hotel aims to "do their bit for the environment." You'd be 26% more inclined to reuse your towel if you saw a sign that asked the same question but added, "most of our customers reuse their towels at least once."

This sort of behavior isn't restricted to little details like towel reuse. Consider this startling fact: if a person is fat, the chances of their friends becoming obese are quadrupled!

Other significant issues, like drinking and where we spend our money, follow a similar trend. We're hardwired to turn to others for guidance on what is and isn't acceptable behavior.

Understand that there is a herd mentality at work the next time you are presented with a difficult adjustment issue.

Discover a technique to make the behavior you're attempting to instill infectious by teaching the folks you're trying to persuade how to join the herd.

That's it—everything you need to change things when change is difficult!

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