9 Great Things from Switch


The book is Switch: How to change things when change is hard by Chip and Dan Heath, and here are nine short reasons why it’s worth getting.

1. The Elephant & The Rider

A mental model for your mental waddle – why are some changes hard to navigate, emotionally and behaviourally? Imagine you’re a rider on an elephant. It’s a bit like System 1 and System 2, described in Daniel Kanneman’s Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow but as a metaphor it’s easier to visualise. The Rider is rational, analytical. The Elephant is emotional, quick-to-react. The Heath’s Elephant and Rider model helps you understand your own and others’ reactions to change.

2. Bright Spots

Bright spots are the glimpses of light in the darkness. Even a glimmer of light can lead to important, effective change.

Case Study: An aid worker addressed high infant mortality in a community. They noticed just 1 or 2 families did not fit the pattern. It turned out those families fed their children in a subtly different way to others…a minor behaviour modification which saved childrens’ lives.

3. Knowledge is overrated

If knowing equated to change, no doctor would smoke or drink too much. (Enough said). We have got to ‘find the feeling’. In a similar vein they talk about ‘TBU’:

TBU—true but useless. It was paralyzing knowledge.”

Chip and Dan Heath – Switch: How to change things when change is hard

4. The Miracle Question

A form of therapy described in the book asks the ‘miracle question’

“While you are sleeping, a miracle happens and your troubles are resolved. When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first small sign you’d see that would make you think the problem has gone?”

This isn’t asking you to describe the ‘miracle’ itself but rather a tangible sign that it happened. What would you see?

5. Their Dad

“(Our dad, Fred Heath, who worked over thirty years
for IBM, would tell his teams that when “milestones” seemed too distant, they should look for
“inch pebbles.” Nice one, Dad.)”

6. Destination Postcard

There are interesting case studies about the need to make strategic goals simple and singular in the Heath Bros book, Made to Stick. In Switch the Heaths use a nice image for a smaller, near-to objective:

“We want what we might call a destination postcard—a vivid picture from the near-term future that shows what could be possible.”

7. Exposure Effect

“…which means that the more you’re exposed to something, the more you like it. For instance, when the Eiffel Tower was first erected, Parisians hated it. They thought it was a half-finished skeletal blight on their fair city, and they responded with a frenzy of protest.”

8. Designated drivers

Brilliantly, it seems that the concept of a ‘designated driver’
was spread by infiltrating TV.

“Segments featuring designated drivers appeared on Hunter, The Cosby Show, Mr. Belvedere, and Who’s the Boss? On an episode of the smash-hit 1980s legal drama L.A. Law, the heart-throb lawyer played by Harry Hamlin asked a bartender to call his designated driver. A designated-driver poster appeared in the bar on Cheers.”

So that’s the second time Cheers helped establish a Norm. [1]Apologies. This joke will only be understood by people who’ve seen Cheers, and they will rightly have contempt for it too.

9. The Identity Model

Appealing to a positive sense of identity, not self-interest, can get people to take unusual decisions.

“…In the identity model [we ask]: Who am I? What kind of situation is this? What would someone like me do in this situation?”

Case Study: researchers found that people who accepted a small ‘drive safely’ sign in the window of their house were then far more likely to accede to having huge ‘drive safely’ billboards on their lawn.

10. That’s it, I hope that whets your appetite – there’s more in there than this post covers, so I recommend getting a copy of the book 📖


1 Apologies. This joke will only be understood by people who’ve seen Cheers, and they will rightly have contempt for it too.

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