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Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives?

The primary obstacle is a conflict that's built into our brains, say Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the critically acclaimed bestseller Made to Stick. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems - the rational mind and the emotional mind - that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort - but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.

In Switch, the Heaths show how everyday people - employees and managers, parents and nurses - have united both minds and, as a result, achieved dramatic results:

- The lowly medical interns who managed to defeat an entrenched, decades-old medical practice that was endangering patients (see page 242)
- The home-organizing guru who developed a simple technique for overcoming the dread of housekeeping (see page 130)
- The manager who transformed a lackadaisical customer-support team into service zealots by removing a standard tool of customer service (see page 199)

In a compelling, story-driven narrative, the Heaths bring together decades of counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline.

320 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 16, 2010

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About the author

Chip Heath

33 books1,286 followers
Chip Heath is the professor of Organizational Behavior in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.
He received his B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University and his Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford.

He co-wrote a book titled Switch How to Change Things When Change Is Hard with his brother Dan Heath.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,250 reviews
Profile Image for Kerrilee.
5 reviews
November 22, 2010
I'll be interested to see if this book is still relevant in 10 years, as the influence of books like this often come and go. In the meantime, though, my brain just won't stop incorporating elements from it into how I'm thinking about current events in my life.
I was already inclined to believe the validity of the structure that the Heaths outline because I've practiced some of it already without using the same words--most especially Shaping the Path, as I give a lot of thought to the environment of my preschool classroom (an example: want your students to stop running from one end of the room to the other? Rearrange the furniture so they can't run in a straight line). The environment absolutely makes a difference in behavior.
Parsing the elements involved in a successful campaign for change makes me feel more equipped to do that in other contexts. So while this book is a great tool to use to work towards your goals, I think it remains important to choose your goals carefully as you enact some of the Heaths' advice; they actually unintentionally provide a really great example in talking about BP. BP made it a goal in the early 90's to have "no dry holes" when they drilled, in effect attempting to reduce their non-productive drilling efforts to zero. But obviously, somewhere along the way to meeting that very ambitious goal, they also threw safety by the wayside and we saw the effects mere months after Switch was published. BP did an incredible job working towards its goal, but simultaneously, it misplaced its priorities to a disastrous degree. This, too, is something to keep in mind when creating change.
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,293 reviews21.7k followers
August 25, 2010
I really quite enjoyed this book. It was one of those books that had me talking to people about it before I finish reading it. In fact, if any of my M Teach friends are reading this – you probably want to get your hands on a copy of it, as it has some really interesting things to say about how to motivate students.

I’ve read another of their books – Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die – which was also particularly good and based on an idea in Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point. I thought when I read that book that it also had many things to tell people who want to teach. Essentially, they get all of the more recent research in psychology and behavioural economics and give interesting case studies that illuminate the importance of these studies. They also fit them into fairly easy to understand structures and metaphors and I think this forms the most interesting part of their work.

They base much of this book around a metaphor from a book called The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. That metaphor is of the elephant and the rider. The idea being much the same as Plato’s metaphor of the charioteer from The Republic (yes, some of this stuff has been vexing thinkers for quite some time). To be honest, I prefer the elephant metaphor to that of the two horses and a rider that Plato develops.

The elephant is our emotional selves and the rider our rational self. Ever wondered why you can know that it makes sense to give up smoking and yet still not give up? To Plato that just means that you don’t really know – you simply would never do anything bad if you truly knew you were doing a bad thing. This has always been the bit of Plato that has sounded like nonsense to me. As a lapsed smoker for years, while I smoked, I knew and was ashamed of the fact that I smoked. I hated the idea that I was doing something that was so clearly stupid and self-destructive and would have done everything in my power to hide the fact that I smoked. But that didn’t mean I could give up. Giving up smoking was utterly impossible. My rider was utterly convincedI needed to stop, it was just that my elephant had a hell of a lot more will-power than my rider. Think of a rider on an elephant – he needs to exert a lot of will power to keep the elephant doing what he wants it to do, and that drains the rider to the point where he needs to sleep. But the elephant just keeps plodding on, knowing that eventually you will need to sleep, you will need to think about something else and when you do he will go in the direction he was planning to go all along.

They discuss an interesting study where people were asked to sit in a room alone with a plate of freshly cooked biscuits. They were then asked to do some boring maths and the people who were not allowed to eat the biscuits did fewer maths problems and for less time then those who could eat the biscuits. The point being that we have a limited amount of 'will-power' and it is easily used up. This seems to me to be an incredibly important thing to know about ourselves.

For years I tried to give up smoking, but then I would have a drink or be at a party or something awful would happen during the day or I would just be sitting around with no particular excuse at all and suddenly I would think, ‘oh God, I would kill for a cigarette’ and then I would be smoking again and that would be that. I have only been able to stay off cigarettes by learning to despise them. Now I hate the smell of them, I hate the taste of them, I hate just about everything about them. Revulsion is an elephant, rather than rider, concern and so I’ve used that to negate the other elephant issues that had been dragging me back to cigarettes previously.

This book says that if you are going to make any kind of change you need to consider three fundamental conditions – the elephant, the rider and the path – all of these can be manipulated and all of them should be manipulated to make change as easy as possible.

Directing the rider is very important, as the rider tends to be overly analytical and negative. There was a lovely quote I saw in a New Scientist article once by a mathematician, ‘any problem can be made to look unsolvable’. They offer the best advice I can think of – if you are seeking to make change you should see what is working and then see what you need to do to replicate that. Often people think they need to be the guru with new and surprising insights no one else has ever had. But often the seeds of what needs to change are already spread around, and you just need to tend them.

The elephant needs careful consideration. However, without getting the elephant on board (so to speak) change is going to be impossible. There is some lovely discussion here about diets and why they often don’t work that explains the elephant problem beautifully. I think the main lesson from a lot of this section for me was to remember that we are social animals and that we want to be seen as that and not stand out. Normalising change was very important.

Although, really this change the culture theme is the main lesson from their ‘shape the path’ section of the book. There is a lot of nice stuff about how you achieve this. There was an interesting part on drug use in the US military during the Vietnam war, for example, and the fact that when people came home to the US they tended to stop their excessive drug use. That is, the culture of life in US cities simply did not tolerate or sustain heavy drug use in ways that life in Vietnam did. Therefore, if you are seeking to make changes you should look very closely at how you can address the cultural issues that are potentially undermining that change.

I had heard many of the examples used in this book before – the ten-thousand lives campaign, for example, although it was better explained here – but they did put interesting spins on even the things I had heard about before.

There is a lot of excellent advice in this book about how to bring about change in both your own life and in your workplace and so on. There are excellent examples of how people have applied the strategies discussed and how these simple changes have made differences in what they have been seeking to achieve. I think the best of this book is that many of the interventions suggested are minimal and yet still highly effective. We tend to want to fix everything at once – but as the authors repeatedly point out, the rider is more than happy to find a thousand reasons to do nothing and to fixate on the 'true but useless' facts that tend to undermine change. The point is to find ways to see what can work (which is normally what is already working somewhere) and to replicate that.

I really liked the metaphor of the rider, elephant and path developed in this book and think, for that alone, this book is worth reading. It is also worth reading for many of the insights it provides in motivating change. This was really well worth the read.
Profile Image for Amir Tesla.
161 reviews669 followers
July 11, 2021
Recommended to: Anyone who desires the capability to spark massive, lasting and effective "CHANGE", from individual and family up to organizational and even nation-wide levels
I know, it's cool :D

About the book
It's definitely among the most perfect books I've ever consumed. Author's have structured it in the following format: Three main parts each one being a critical element of change. Each part then is consisted of submodules i.e. different ways of reaching the corresponding element and each submodule is backed up with numerous real world stories on how the element being discussed is put into practice and how it's lead into a snowball of change.
Aw, and this book has also some exercise to put your takeaways into test. :D
A remarkable fact about the book which is vivid in the real stories provided throughout the book is the consistency and integrity of the "framework of change" they're teaching. In each story, they provide you can see all the three elements perfectly at work. So what are these lovely elements?

The content Authors have identified three major elements required in any environment to initiate and support a lasting and effective change which are:
I. Directing the Rider: Which deals with the thinking part of human brain
II. Motivating the Elephant: Which tackles issues regarding our emotional brain
III. Shaping the path: Which is about the environment, influencing our behavior.
There's an analogy used through out the book regarding our rational and emotional part. The part of our brain which makes us human is referred to a rider sitting on an elephant which stands for our huge emotional part. Our limbic brain, our subconscious mind or the emotional part of our brain is so strong and compelling that in terms of strength looks like an elephant to our logical part of the brain (rider).
Now let's start with an illuminating quote which in spite of seeming obvious is often neglected:
All change efforts have something in common: for any thing to change, someone has to start acting differently

In this vain, my all time favorite teacher, Jim Rohn says:
If you change, everything will change for you.

How to change?
Rider and the Elephant elements
In essence, if you want to change things, you've got to appeal to both rider (logical brain) and elephant (emotional brain). The rider provides planning and direction while the elephant provides energy and motivation. If you reach riders of your team but not the Elephants, members will have understanding without motivation. And i you reach their Elephants but not riders, they'll have passion without direction. In each case all attempt for change all doomed to failure.
An strong barrier to change is that the mind and the heart often disagree. What looks like laziness is often exhustion.

The Situation Element
Research strongly shows that our environment and situations, drastically influence our behavior. For instance studies shows the bigger our food containers, the more we eat and vice versa. Hence:
What looks like a people problem is often a situation (path) problem.

Now let's see how we can come up with best strategies to direct the rider, motivate the elephant and shape the path.

I. Directing the Rider:
1. Find the Bright Spots: To be precise and short, in every terrible situation if you look closely enough, you'll find people that are getting results. Finding bright spots is identifying the cases, people that are getting results in spite of the bad circumstances and teach others the strategies these bright spots are utilizing.
This approach in psychology is referred to as Solutions-focused therapy. Focusing on what's worked so far instead of the "whys" behind problems.
For instance: a specific product of company sells very low, but meanwhile you see some sales persons having high success rate in selling that very product. You must find out how their techniques and teach them to others.
In Essence: Instead of asking what's broken and how we can fix it, ask: What's working and how we can do more of it.

2. Script the critical Move: Change is often hard, and ambiguity makes it also terrifying. Any successful change requires a translation of ambiguous goals into concrete behaviors. In short, to make a switch, you need to script the critical moves.
For instance: Asking someone to eath more healthy is too general, you must define them a precise diet plan to break their resistance.
In Essence: Clarity dissolves resistance.

3. Point To The Destination: In short, we want what we might call a destination postcard, a vivid picture from the near-term future that show what could be possible. Having a clear perspective gives feedback to people on ho get lost in analysis.w close they are to their desire objective.
When you describe a compelling destination, you're helping to correct one of the rider's great weaknesses, the tendency to get lost in analysis.

4. Black & White goals: Destination postcards is effective if they motivate the employees. What if they're not. In such cases you must define an absolute goal.
For instance: When planning you're new year's resolution, "Being healthier" is ambiguous, instead if you change it to "Gym Every Single Day" or even "No More Cheese Cake", then you leave no room for rationalization.
In Essence: When you are at the beginning of a change, don't obsess about the middle, because the middle is going to look different when you get there; instead, Look for a strong beginning and a strong ending and get moving.

To Be Continued ...
Profile Image for 7jane.
678 reviews256 followers
December 22, 2015
This is a book that's best read after you have read 1-3ish good self-help books (say, Baumeister's "Willpower", Duhigg's "The Power Of Habit" and Keller's "The One Thing" for example), and yet feel you need something like 'cherry on top'.

This book teaches one how make a change through the image of a rider, directing an elephant, on a path from A to B. The rider is the rational (sometimes procrastinating and over-researching) mind, the elephant the emotional (sometimes out-of-control) mind, and the path is shaping the situation (badly done may freak the two previous parts and make things complicated).

The points are gathered on one simple page at the end but you really benefit from making notes since it doesn't got much in depth. When I made notes I did gather more than what that page says, but happily also noticed that you don't have to write much - unlike in some other cases. There is plenty of examples that pad things nicely, though if you don't want the padding it might feel annoying a bit.

But it's a fairly quick read, the examples are good and the writers' attitude is likeable (truly, if the writer(s) show bothering attitude, reading the book can become harder).

So, a good 'last' self-help book with a light-hearted real-life example cushioning. *nods* :)
Profile Image for Reid.
139 reviews6 followers
August 11, 2012
I understand the perspective of the haters: this book is broad and over-simplifies a really complex topic. I understand, haters, but I don't agree. I love the Heaths' writing precisely because they keep things simple. Their premise that inspiring change requires you to speak to both the brain's logical, rational side as well as its emotional side isn't headline news, but they present it using a simple metaphor (Rider, Elephant, and Path) that makes it easy to grasp and (more important) easy to remember. I particularly liked the breadth of case studies cited, from principals facing impossible odds to attempted procurement reforms to preventing the spread of AIDS in Tanzania. The 'clinic' sections at the end of each section are also great tools to provoke engagement with the reader.
I found it funny how many themes from other books I've read make guest-appearances here. For instance, the emphasis on the powerful psychology of "quick wins" (Ramit Sethi), decision paralysis (Barry Schwartz), the power of a checklist (Atul Gawande), or the importance of "What's the Next Action?" (David Allen).
Profile Image for Taka.
684 reviews507 followers
May 13, 2010
Another must read from the Heath Brothers-

This is another invaluable book packed with extremely useful information. True to the theme of their earlier book, they help make all the concepts stick by hammering them in over and over: Direct the Rider, Motivate the Elephant, and Shape the Path.

For any change to occur, you must have a good reason, a good motivation, and a good environment. The rider is the rational side of you, the elephant, your emotional side, and the path, your environment.

To direct the rider means to have compelling reasons to do something. In doing so, you can do three things: 1) Find the bright spot; 2) script the critical moves; and 3) point to the destination. Finding the bright spot requires to you to shift through your past experience and find instances in which something was working for you - be it feeling not depressed, going a full day not drinking, or having fun learning - and analyze them so that you can do more of them.

Scripting the critical moves means you have to give detailed instructions, because when you tell someone in abstract terms such as, "be healthy," "eat less," they can mean so many things that people don't know what to do. Telling them, "buy 1% milk," is specific enough that they can follow the instruction easily.

Finally, pointing to the destination means you have to show people where you're going and why it's worth going there.

To motivate the elephant, you can: 1) find the feeling; 2) shrink the change; and 3) grow the people.

Finding the feeling just means making people feel something - fear, compassion, indignity, absurdity, anything. And this ties nicely with the concept from their previous book: Emotion and making people care. Showing an individual's plight - a mother who lost her daughter because of some medical error that could've been prevented - makes people care.

Shrinking the change means simply that you break down the change into manageable size. So instead of saying, "clean your whole room!" - a daunting task for messy people - it helps to shrink the task by saying, "Just clean the room for five minutes, that's all." As soon as the elephant gets going, it keeps going and going - the five minutes becomes thirty minutes, and when you come to, voila, the room is clean!

Growing the people has two components: 1) cultivating an identity; and 2) instilling the growth mindset.

People have two different ways of thinking: individual thinking and group thinking. The former considers things based on one's self-interest while the latter does so based on one's identity, or the group they associate with. As an individual, any monetary gain is a plus, but if you were, say, a doctor, you might not consider money the end-all and might even reject it if it contradicts with your concept of being a doctor.

As Carol Dweck's seminal book, Mindset: the New Psychology of Success explains, there are two different kinds of mindsets: fixed and growth. The former believes human abilities are fixed "talents" while the latter believes they can be cultivated through effort. To be able to change, it's almost a requirement to have the latter mindset especially because change is often very difficult.

Finally, shaping the path has three components: 1) tweak the environment; 2) build habits; and 3) rally the herd.

Tweaking the environment means arranging things around you so that it becomes easier to do one thing over another. For example, if you have a perennial problem of obsessively checking your email, it might help you to shut down your Outlook or whatever email program you have, mute the PING! noise whenever an email arrives in your inbox, or physically hide the pop-out notice on the screen with post-its. When my obsession with checking certain websites took over my life, I used Leechblock on Firefox to forbid myself to go there. And it works.

Building habits frees the elephant because you do it almost automatically. Some of the techniques introduced here include "action triggers" and checklists. Action triggers are a way of "pre-loading" decisions by deciding the sequence of actions you'll take so that you don't have to think while going through them. For example, you can say, "I'll call the office right after dinner tonight." The "trigger" in this case is "right after dinner." In other words, when you finish eating, you don't have to think or decide to call the office anymore; the decision has already been made beforehand.

People always forget something. Worse yet, they are overconfident about their abilities in general. So having a checklist minimizes possible errors - which we commit by default for being human - and thwart overconfidence.

Finally, rallying the herd. This concept is based on the belief that behavior is contagious and you can help it spread by using social pressure, social proof, and free spaces. A good technique that applies social pressure effectively is stand-up meetings. By making everyone stand up, it cuts a lot of excess talk as people start to fidget and send the signal that someone's talking too long.

Social proof. A hotel that had a sign, "A majority of our guests reuse towels" made more likely for guests to reuse their towels.

Having spaces for people to talk and hang out is a must for uniting them and rallying them. A hospital that had a lounge for people to talk about possible changes actually adopted them while a hospital that didn't have such a place didn't.

A must read.
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,825 reviews283 followers
April 24, 2011
Let me sum this book up: To change behavior, you must do three things. One, you must change the person’s behavior. Two and three, you must change the person’s hearts and minds.

The authors use the analogy of an Elephant and his Rider. The Rider is your logical brain. The Elephant is your heart. To get the elephant to move, you must engage both the Rider and the Elephant. So, to put it another way, to change behavior, you must Direct the Rider (provide clear direction), Motivate the Elephant (engage people’s emotions), and Shape the Path (create the best environment).

Here are some more ideas from the book. Keep the Rider (one’s mind) busy analyzing why things work well. Ask what small changes can be made to make things work better. The hardest part of change is in the details. What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. Set what Built to Last authors call a BHAG, a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, a goal that hits you in the gut and motivates you, a destination postcard, pictures of a future that hard work can make possible. When it is time to change behavior, our first instinct is to teach them something. Instead, we need to appeal to the heart. If you need quick action, negative emotions might help, but most of the time, it’s not a stone-in-the-shoe situation and we need to encourage play, open minds, creativity, and hope. Go ahead and give two stamps toward the goal on the Loyalty Card, what the authors call Shrink the Change, build by providing an early small win. Small targets lead to small victories. Grow your people. Lock your people into identifying with being a great person. Tweak the environment. Create specific action triggers. Build habits. Use the humble checklist.
Profile Image for Stephen.
40 reviews7 followers
February 6, 2012
This is an excellent book on how to enact change and the mechanics behind that. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to change something in their personal life or within their working environment.

I was able to get a good understanding of the interplay and motivation of the two competing brain types which Chip coined the Rider ( Rational ) and the Elephant ( Emotional ). He then breaks it down to these sections.

Direct the Rider
- Follow the bright spots
- Script the Critical Moves
- Point to a desired destination

Motivate the Elephant
- Shrinking the Change
- Growing your People

Shape the Path
- Tweak the Environment
- Build Habits
- Rally the Herd

A concept that I found intriguing is the Fundamental Attribution Error. Its a tendency that people/society have to squarely blame peoples behavior than to look at the situation they are in. Which is the easy way out.

What I really enjoyed about this book, is how clearly and straight forward his examples are. Repeat with me! Direct the Rider, Motivate the Elephant, and Shape the Path.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,863 reviews370 followers
June 17, 2015
I wish that I could give this book 2.5 stars—absolutely average. Because I think that I have seen it all and tried it all before. And I think the book could have been cut by several chapters without being hurt at all.

I like the basic metaphor of this book: the emotions as an elephant, the intellect as mahout. The rider (as the Heaths call the mahout) has limited amounts of strength and will-power to use to direct the elephant; the elephant has to be cooperative, or the rider won’t get where she wants to go. Also discussed is the path—the environment which we can manipulate to steer ourselves into the desired habits and behaviours. [See also: Slim by Design by Brian Wansink re: changing the environment to facilitate change].

I think the examples given in Switch are much more applicable to the work place than to the individual household. I’ve been trying to get myself to do basic housework as I go each week, rather than storing up misery for myself on the weekends. But so far, I just can’t get my elephant to give a damn about the situation. The mahout tries her best, but very little housework gets done.

The authors also use an example of teaching a monkey to use a skateboard, using mango bits as rewards. They suggest that lavish use of rewards will help with eliciting the desired behaviour. I have used this strategy on myself with limited success—do X and then you can read a chapter of your book or phone someone you want to talk to. The tricky thing is then to stop at one chapter and do another chore before reading the next chapter (my elephant is a tricky one).

Another suggestion in the book is linkages of behaviours—look for a bright spot in your routine, something that you have no problem doing, then link it to another desired action. This was how I trained myself to floss my teeth EVERY evening. I slotted that task in between washing my face and brushing my teeth. After a year and a half of this, I am finally to the point that it takes a major catastrophe to prevent me from flossing. However, I’m still working on linking setting up my coffee maker in the evening to doing any dishes that won’t go in the dishwasher. That was my one New Year’s Resolution for 2015 and at the 6 month point, I still haven’t performed this task reliably. Unfortunate, as both my elephant & mahout enjoy getting up to a clean kitchen.

The Heaths also take a page out of the FlyLady’s book [Sink Reflections : FlyLady’s Babystep Guide to Overcoming Chaos] by recommending breaking tasks down into tiny sections—making the goal so small that the emotional elephant isn’t spooked by it. Marla Cilley (the FlyLady) recommends 5 minute cleaning bursts on the theory that you can force yourself to do almost anything for only 5 minutes and that a small success will almost always carry you along to do more. This works for me to some extent—some days I designate as “It bugs me so I fix it” days. If I notice a dusty window sill, I go get a cloth and clean it. Then I may go and check all the other window sills and make sure they are clean too. I notice a grimy light switch—suddenly it’s “clean all the light switches” day.

I also have experience with trying to manipulate my environment to make being tidy an easy option. [See Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern for more tips on this]. I’ve moved my filing cabinet to the dining room where I seem to like to open the mail. Sometimes the contents make it into the files, but once again, not on a reliable basis.

So, I need to find myself a reliable EMOTIONAL reason to keep up with these tasks—and I haven’t come up with one yet. My solution to the situation is usually to invite guests, spurring myself to spruce up my apartment. So far, peer pressure is the only thing that works every time for me! And the Heaths also recommend that, so I may just have to stick with it and invite folks in more often.

Wish there was a little more to the book than that—I am apparently an awfully recalcitrant housekeeper.

32 reviews
May 6, 2010

EMOTIONAL SELF=ELEPHANT- It wants things now, easy, It is usually the "emotional self" that usually causes us to fail, because it usually doesn't want to make the short term sacrifices for long term payoffs. It can also have enormous strengths like love compassion and sympathy.

RATIONAL SELF=RIDER It analyzes and decides what to do. The rider is to direct the elephant where to go. If the rider can't get the elephant to go where it wants. (You overeat, or sleep in) the elephant went against the rider. The problem with the rider, is it can over think things, spin her wheels and not make a decision of where to go.

The trick to making changes, is to appeal to both, the emotional side and the rational side. A reluctant elephant or wheel spinning rider will get you nowhere.


Concentrate on what works, or the "bright spots"-
Concentrate on what you did differently that made it successful. The idea isn't to just think about the good things in your life or others, but to really analyze why they work so that you can reproduce it.
Script the critical moves-
Make it easy to make the right decision. Too many choices, or confusion will send us back to our usual habits. Bring a noble goal within reach of everyday life and make the decision clear without exceptions. that leaves no ambiguity. When you want someone to behave in a new way, explain that new way clearly, don't assume the new moves are obvious.
Point to a desired destination-
Make it clear where you want to go. ex: I want to lose 10 pounds by Jan 3 2011 at midnight. That goal is clear.

Find the feeling- To change, we need an emotional reason to change, think of the scary "red cement" videos that they show you in drivers ed to keep kids from drinking and driving. The emotion can be fear, love, sympathy, anything, but we all have to buy into the change with our emotions.
Shrink the change-
When you realize how close you are already, you are motivated to keep going. Make the first few steps in the right direction big ones so there is motivation to keep going. Dave Ramsey-a financial guru, advises to pay off the smallest debt first, not the one with the highest interest, because when the debt is paid off, you feel like you have accomplished something great, and it motivates you to keep going. Celebrate the first steps of the change.
Grow the people-the more people you have on board making the change, it will make the other people feel the positive peer pressure to change. Make people want to identify with your group. You don't want to be the one person that doesn't pick up after your dog. It is a lot easier to tell a group of people to do something differently when 50% or more of the people have already agreed or made that change.

You will have initial feelings of excitement,hope, and optimism, but once started you will start to feel depressed and like a failure, but if you persist and persevere you will make steady progress and come out in the end with a great feeling of accomplishment. If you know this right up front, it actually creates a positive feeling, not a depressing on. I think this is found in Alma 32 when he talks about not throwing out the seed of faith. He lets them know that there will be a time of doubt and hardship and frustration, but if you don't give up, it will grow into a tree that brings forth a wonderful fruit. Expect to feel that way before you even start, so you are ready for it.
WE will struggle, we will fail, and we will get knocked down, but throughout we will get better, and we succeed in the end. It reframes failure as a natural part of the change process.


Tweak the environment-remove every barrier to make the path easy to see. example, throw away the junk food in the house and have a vegetable tray out to snack on. Think of Amazon's 1 click ordering. Leave the scriptures out on the table, or ensign in the bathroom. The less everyday steps you have to take to accomplish a goal, the more chances you will do it. Sometimes what is perceived as a people problem is actually a situational problem. We will all eat way too much popcorn if we are given it in a big bag. Try giving the popcorn in smaller bags and people will eat less popcorn. Environmental tweaks beats self control every time.
Build Habits-when we are on autopilot we don't have to work so hard at everything. If we automatically say our prayers, then we can spend our mental and emotional efforts being nice, or withstanding the brownies that your son just made. Habits will change more easily when our environment changes. Build an action trigger. Note in advance when where and how you will execute the change. Put something somewhere different to remind you of the change. Build habits that advance the change you want in your life. Choose habits that are relatively easy to embrace. Making checklists make big screw ups less likely.
Rally the Herd-
You will imitate the actions of the people around you, especially in unfamiliar situations. Elephants will go with the herd. If you want to change, or help someone else change, hang around people that have already implemented that change in their life or at least excited and motivated to make that same change. You will want to be on the team.
Profile Image for Steve.
962 reviews94 followers
June 10, 2015
I read this book for two reasons. First, it was a selection on the 2014 Air Force Chief of Staff Reading List, and second, a coworker recommended it. As a management engineer, change is my job, or I should say, getting people, functions, and businesses to change is my job, and I’m interested in books like this and how I can apply concepts and ideas presented. There were some interesting theories and notions in this book, but it is highly repetitive and somewhat tedious.

“Switch” suffers from three main problems. First, it focuses on techniques to facilitate change in organizations and individuals, and while it occasionally cites interesting work in cognitive and social psychology, the justification for the techniques is anecdotal: “Technique X worked at company Y in particular instance Z, and so it’s obviously a valid technique that’s always applicable.” There’s no attempt at any sort of rigorous scientific testing of such a claim. For example, the authors claim that you cannot focus on why a proposed change is failing to take hold, but must instead identify the pockets where change is working, figure out why it works there, and then emulate the successes elsewhere. They describe several case studies where this approach has led to successful change, including a project to improve childhood nutrition in Vietnam, and an intervention with a misbehaving ninth grader. Finding the bright spots is a good thing to do, but the hypothesis that it is always the best approach, that it will always trump analysis and correction of failure, is simply ludicrous. Anyone trained in the proper use of the scientific method will want to scream at instance after instance of this type of claim without support.

The second problem with “Switch” is the use of overly-cute language. The book’s central claim is that effective change requires three things: engaging the rational, data-driven perspective of the people who must make the change; ensure they have an emotional stake in the change; and make the change process as easy as possible for them by manipulating the environment. To describe this triad of requirements, the authors use a metaphorical rider (the rational perspective) on an elephant (the emotional component) moving down a path (the change context). They use this metaphor in paragraph after paragraph, until their message is drowned out by the cutesy language. This pervades the book, even beyond the rider-elephant-path triad. For example, near the end of the book, where they’re describing how to keep change momentum going, they talk about positive reinforcement, and provide the example of a monkey trainer who rewards her charge with bits of mango for each small action she performs correctly. A page or two later, they proclaim “If you want your boss or your team to change, you better get a little less stingy with the mango.” Seriously?

This book is about twice as long as it needed to be to convey its key points, but “Switch” does contain some common-sense approaches to effecting change. It presents some reasonable change strategies, and having them in one’s change-management toolbox is a good thing. But surely there is a way to present them without using silly, repetitive language, and without claiming that these are the only effective ways to create change.
Profile Image for Mario Tomic.
159 reviews309 followers
April 5, 2016
This is by far the best and most practical book on behavior change I've read so far. The book was written to address the change at the individual, organizational, and community level and I found it to be extremely useful when helping my clients reach their fitness and health goals. I was initally introduced to the work of brothers Heath through their book "Made to Stick" which is a another great read. So what are you gonna get out of this?
For starters you'll learn the exact framework how to deal with bad behaviors and change them for beneficial ones. In the book the process of change is described as involving 2 sides of your mind, your emotional and rational thinking. The overpowering emotional mind is refereed to as as the Elephant. The elephant is the part of us that gives into cravings, instincts and has very little self-control. And is also the key to motivation. The rational, decision-making part of us is secondary and it sits on the Elephant as the Rider. The Rider is the one that deals with self-control, decisions and setting big goals. And is also prone to overthinking, and getting paralyzed by over-analyzing. (Both terms were originally mentioned in Jonathan Haidt's great book Happiness Hypothesis.)
The reason why behavior change is so hard for most people is because there's a conflict between the 2 elements of your mind. And the small goal oriented Rider is the part that usually loses to the instant gratification seeking Elephant. And to make a truly lasting change in your life, the Elephant and the Rider need to unite on the same path. Overall this book offers a great practical framework how to adjust both the Rider and the Elephant in ways that will allow the change to occur and stick. As I said before this is the best book on change I've read and I would highly recommend it. It's gonna positively impact all areas of your life.
Profile Image for Amanda NEVER MANDY.
454 reviews98 followers
May 3, 2017
This book was boring as shit. I would read a paragraph and then fall asleep. The concepts it discussed were no-brainers and there was really nothing more to pull from this read. It’s not that I went in with a closed mind, it’s just that it didn’t light up any new thought pathways in my overstuffed brain. The writing made me feel like the authors were trying too hard to be my friend having these high five do you know what I mean moments that made me shake my head in disgust. Their tone read as if they were talking down to or felt superior to the reader which didn’t match the content provided.

I guess if someone was clueless on this topic it would be a good read or maybe if they needed more motivation to change or some bullshit like that. I don’t know. This is me trying to find that one nice thing to say and it seems pretty pathetic. It’s like I am trying to sell you on a product that I didn’t like myself, “The drink tastes like how cat piss smells but if that’s your thing, go for it.”

Two stars to a book that my rider and elephant agreed sucked a big fat one.
Profile Image for Andy.
1,377 reviews467 followers
October 6, 2013
Of the three books I've read by the Heaths, Switch is the weakest. The strength of their method is to present solid info with illustrative stories but it seems like they didn't do their homework on this one. The overall message of the book about habit/person/environment is valid but nothing new. The plus value the authors can add is from the stories they choose, so they need to get those right.

For example, the story they probably bring up the most is about a campaign to get people to switch to 1% milk. The problem is that if you know much about obesity research, you wouldn't expect this simple switch to work very well to improve health outcomes (see Good Calories, Bad Calories). I looked up the article they cite for this and it offers zero evidence that the intervention decreases weight or increases fitness (nor does a follow-up by the authors written years later). So I looked up the topic in general and found that there is some epidemiological evidence that drinking 1% vs. whole milk actually increases weight rather than the opposite. The 1% milk story is an example of how NOT to do public health behavior change.

Many of the other stories are psychology experiments in artificial circumstances or just anecdotes, and it's hard to generalize from those.
Profile Image for Britany.
967 reviews417 followers
January 16, 2015
A fellow colleague recommended this book to me, and I have to say that it read pretty quick. The chapters are broken down into numbered anecdotes. Examples and stories of these concepts. These stories made the book relatable and easier to digest. The concept is that change is difficult, but using some key theories, you too can change anything. A behavior, a concept, a strategy, or a mindset.
Profile Image for Karen Chung.
389 reviews89 followers
May 19, 2016
This one gets five stars out of utter usefulness. If you liked Charles Duhigg's Power of Habit, you should love this one - it's certain to add many new life-changing tools to your current collection.
Profile Image for Obsidian.
2,735 reviews939 followers
August 24, 2019
So this is the first of the books I had to read for my training this summer. I have to say that "Switch" was my favorite just because it really gets down into why change is hard for people and organizations. And it shows how small changes can build into such big successes. I am at an organization right now going through some upheaval since our boss was let go after our employee feedback survey and overall morale dropped over three years. Of course looking back now and after completing my training I can point out where things went wrong. Ignoring feedback from employees, refusing to adjust to others and listen, having "process" improvements every couple of months and not sticking with one approach, etc. It's no wonder I was full of stress and would wake up grinding my teeth.

The book really focuses on what is called the elephant, the rider, and the path. And that the elephant for many of us are dealing with emotions. The rider is supposed to be the rational part of yourself. And the path is where you want the elephant to go. Well you would think that it would be pretty easy to steer an elephant right? Nope. It's really hard. In fact it takes a lot to control the elephant so that you can get to the path you want to go.

The Heath's do a great job of putting in a ton of case study work in this book that I found fascinating. My favorite was of the man given a finite amount of time to improve nutrition and pretty much solve hunger in I believe it was Thailand. And then him realizing after studying mothers in some villages how they were able to make sure that their children were fed and not suffering from malnutrition. He had those mothers show the other mothers and from there all of this knowledge was passed on. It seems like such a small thing, but it wasn't.

I have dealt with some employees this past year that I want them to get on the path and I know it's my job to keep control of my elephant so that I don't show frustration or impatience and have to clearly show them why the path in the end will be worth it. It definitely helped me rethink some things and how I interact with others.
Profile Image for Caroline.
503 reviews562 followers
April 19, 2012
My father was a man who was fleet of foot and fleet of mind – with the highest levels of self discipline that I have ever encountered. The one thing he didn’t understand were human beings, and why they did things, or even worse, why they didn’t do things. He was completely flummoxed by mankind’s shortcomings.

I wish he was still alive. I wish I could press this book into his hands and say “Here is your chance to understand.”

As well as writing a primer on human nature, Chip and Dan Heath have constructed a wonderful self-help edifice around the concept of a little man (our rational side), upon a big elephant (our emotional side – weak, instinctual and full of desire for instant gratification.) Then finally there is the environment, and our habits within the environment.

I had heard quite a lot of the advice before, but with the exception of a couple of the examples I had never heard about the experiments or case studies behind the advice. Well, they were utterly incredible! Throughout the book I kept muttering “good grief”, or “I don’t believe it!” or “how amazing!” It was such an eye-opening read. The background research really gave the advice enormous impact. It became so much more than a simple set of directives. In the authors' terms - my elephant was well and truly engaged.

I also laughed a lot. That was nice too.

As self-help books go, I think this one is outstanding. Highly recommended.

Note - read after seeing this excellent review by Trevor
Profile Image for Nick.
Author 21 books102 followers
February 26, 2010
Switch is like the Heath brothers earlier book, Made to Stick, in that the ideas in it are not new, just better expressed. Chip and Dan are great storytellers and they have made change (i.e. behavioral change) simple and easy by reducing it to 3 steps: Direct the Rider (provide clear direction for the rational mind), Motivate the Elephant (engage people's emotions) and Shape the Path (make the change easier by changing the situation in key ways). Similarly, their first book took the sophisticated and elegant work of Robert Cialdini and made it accessible and simple.
The rest of us writers are envious, of course, because the gift of clarity and simplicity is a profound one rarely bestowed.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,818 followers
June 30, 2015
Well, a pretty good book. There's nothing here I haven't read elsewhere. this is a book giving the same steps you will read about in most "beat bad habits" books (change routine etc.).

It's related through the use of examples which makes it accessible. I think this will be more help in a bad habit at work situation than in ones personal life.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,657 followers
January 8, 2019
This wasn't any new or earth shattering info, but it was a compilation of research and findings on behavior and habit formation that you've probably heard. However, there were a lot of new insights in the book because they combined some of this research to approach a new problem. So they take Haidt's rider and elephant and some of the behavioral econ and habit stuff and give really good advice about helping people or organizations make changes. The section I found most illuminating was early in the book about finding bright spots--instead of focusing on the problem you need to solve, look to see if others have solved it and see what they're doing. The examples there were interesting
Profile Image for James.
Author 2 books449 followers
November 4, 2017
I'm pretty sure these kind of books are made on an assembly line.
Profile Image for CHERYL.
9,300 reviews399 followers
December 11, 2017
I have to admit that I didn't read it carefully. Mostly it's a more self-helpy version of lots of pop-psych books I've been reading lately. And it's a little too general, in that it assumes most ppl are very similar to one another (even when it reports success rates of, say, 18% before & 35% now).

But it's got some terrific guidelines, mantras, examples, and actions, so if you're motivated but unsure about how to begin to make the change you want to see in your life or your team, it's worth checking out. Or maybe check out www.switchthebook.com/resources first.
63 reviews3 followers
April 24, 2013
I read this because I had to choose one title from an initially daunting list of "leadership"-related titles in preparation for an institute I attended recently. Otherwise, I never would have picked it up (I never read inspirational/leadership-type nonfiction). From here, I'll just quote verbatim the review I gave of this to the other attendees:
"Switch"...is all about how to make a change. Big, little, personal, institutional, societal…any kind of change in any context can be understood by the overarching metaphor the Heath brothers use: a Rider (reason/analytical appeal) on an Elephant (feeling/emotion), traveling a Path (the situation/environment/direction the change must go). The three elements of the metaphor form the structure of the book, and the authors richly illustrate each element and its sub-parts by using real-life examples, ranging from hospitals and schools, to Target and Brasilata (a very large can-manufacturing company in Brazil). You meet a teacher who inspired a class of 1st graders, almost all of whom could barely read or didn’t even know the alphabet, to perform at 3rd-grade levels by year’s end. You meet a Save the Children worker sent to open the first office in Vietnam (with next to no resources of any kind, and no support from the Vietnamese government), who in six months reached 2.2 million people in 265 villages, dramatically reducing childhood malnutrition. The Heaths also cite volumes of published research, using those experiments to vet their statements at each step. There are several side-bar “case studies” which are also drawn from real situations needing change, where you are offered the chance to think about what you might do to make the “switch,” and walk you through the change step by step.
The three elements of making a switch: Direct the Rider, Motivate the Elephant, and Shape the Path, are further described and faceted into steps. It’s a clear primer for making a change.
I found "Switch" very readable and thought-provoking. It serves as an excellent manual on leadership from any level in an organization or environment, and on how to create and foster innovation with very few resources. It got me thinking creatively about changes coming (or changes not coming, but needed!) in my own organization and my personal life. My sole quibble with the book is that I found it had a few too many humorous “asides,” which can work (Mary Roach’s books are nothing but well-researched humorous asides, and I enjoy them immensely), but the Heaths’ I found fell a little flat and momentarily distracting. I do highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Cindy Frewen Wuellner.
30 reviews27 followers
February 26, 2011
I bought this book last April 2010, skimmed it, set it aside. looked like another management book, not transformative (along the lines of say Good to Great). Yesterday on the twitter chat I host, a couple of people said it changed their lives. I thought that about Howard Gardners books on change. My mental models change. Picking it back up and reading it cover to cover in the last 24 hours, I can see why they related to it. the Heaths find a pattern for changing behavior that is simple, sensible, and memorable. They have three components - rational, emotional, and situational. They call them: Directing the Rider (rational, scripting critical moves, point to the destination); Motivate the Elephant (emotional, make it easy to comply, appeal to the image/pathos); and Shape the Path (situation the change.)

They offer cases right and left. I liked the safety goggles in the factory story. 1. Rather than allow for ambiguity of "wear now" and "not now," the manager said to wear them all the time (Directing the rider.) 2. Instead of the nerdy goggles, they got new hip goggles to appeal to the macho staff (Motivating the herd). 3. A big blue line around the whole factory floor meant wear goggles inside this line. A cut out of a man dressed in safety clothes at the doors showed proper apparel and reminded them to don their goggles (Shape the path.) Safety rose 21% in a factory with an above-average safety record.

the authors prove their points and make it simple to digest. I wont forget elephant, rider, and path. and as a futures/architect, change is part of my core business. Its useful to have another tool, for business, and for me. I immediately started thinking how to resituate some habits. Make a mission; make it easy to embrace the new habit.
317 reviews2 followers
September 16, 2011
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

I found this book to be a revelation. It’s smart and delivers on its promise. By the end of the book, I had a much clearer perspective on to make change. One of the reasons that I like this book so much is that it focuses on the systems in place – not the people. Too many books focuses on the people and start from the assumption that there is something wrong with them: they are lazy or they are dumb. These assumptions lead only to two solutions: inspiring pep talks or more training.

Switch focuses on the environment and the systems that are in place that lead to a given result. The Heath brothers argue that to be successful you have to change the systems, the environment or the person’s mindset. They go through all the emotional pieces that make people resistant to change.

A great example of the book’s ideology takes place at a factory. This factory has struggled with safety. Workers are getting their hands caught in one particular rate at an unacceptable rate. Now, some ways to deal with this could have been to “educate” the workers on the dangers of getting their hands caught in the machine, or to create a punishment/incentive scheme. The managers look at the problem and realized that no one wants to get their hand stuck so they devised a safety mechanism where in order to operate the machine, two buttons a arms length apart had to be pressed. If both buttons were not pressed, the machine would turn off. Now it was impossible to both run the machine and get your hand caught. Genius.

I highly recommend this book. It is one of the few management books I plan to purchase and go back to over and over.
Profile Image for Manik Sukoco.
251 reviews30 followers
January 20, 2016
Have you ever made a New Year's Resolution to lose weight, exercise more, kick a bad habit, and then the next week slipped back into the same old routine? There is a reason that people, organizations, and societies many times fall into this trap of trying to make a big change; and shortly thereafter fall back into the same old rut. Can't we just change by trying harder? According to the authors, trying harder will never result in lasting change. All that it will do is tire the "Rider."
The authors explain that when we try to change, we have to use both the logical (the Rider) and the emotional (the Elephant) parts of our brain. The Rider is the part of us that decides to lose weight, but (as Chip and Dan illustrate) the Elephant is that part of us that goes hunting for the Cheetos in the pantry late at night. The Elephant will always take the easiest and most familiar course, whereas the Rider tries to take the most logical course. The Rider (our self-control or will power) will only allow us to re-route the Elephant for a short while before tiring. In order to make an effective "Switch" we must appeal to emotion (the Elephant). However, when the Elephant encounters an obstacle he will try to revert to the comfortable way of doing things
Change is hard; however, since reading "Switch", I now understand the psychology behind effective change. Thanks to Chip and Dan Heath for an excellent job.
Profile Image for Stephanie Ridiculous.
290 reviews4 followers
September 23, 2021
If I could give this negative stars I would.
This is a disgusting love letter to capitalism and patriarchy. The examples used to illustrate the authors points are rife with fatphobia, sexism, misogyny; with caviler attitudes about abuse and child rape.

I'm not being hyperbolic, either. Literal child sexual slavery was framed as a quirky problem to solve in order to decrease HIV/AIDS numbers, with no acknowledgement that young girls shouldn't be prostituting themselves in order to survive, regardless of if HIV/AIDs is a risk factor or not. Every story has a hero, and often that hero is a "noble white person out to save the communities of color that just couldn't fix things themselves."

The few nuggets of useful information are absolutely not worth the garbage heap of overwriting that exalts some of the most distrusting aspects of American society.
(I had to read this for work, I would have rage quite after the first few chapters of enforcing toxic diet culture if I could have.)
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