Book Review: “Switch” Chapter 1

About the Authors: Chip Heath is a professor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. Dan Heath is a senior fellow at Duke University’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship.

This is a book that I have the honor and privilege of devouring alongside Bishop Swanson of The Holston Conference and 15 others. We are spending 3 days with Trainer Susan Hayes as I type this review. When I say we are devouring this book, we are taking it chapter by chapter, breaking it down to pieces that we as Holston Conference can work together to make “The Call To Action” successful for our people, the people of The United Methodist Church.

I have read the book, listened on audio, and now I am with a trainer who knows the book like the back of her hand. I love the opportunity to get to know such a great work in-depth. Because the book is so full of Great information, I will take one chapter at a time to post reviews on the book. Here goes for chapter one.

The author says, “ultimately, all change efforts boil down to the same mission: Can you get people to start behaving in a new way? In this book, we argue that successful changes share a common pattern. They require the leader to do three things at once. One is to change the person’s situation.”

In order for an individual’s behavior to change, you’ve got to influence not only their environment but their hearts and minds. The problem is this: often the heart and mind disagree.  We have a Rational (Rider) and an Emotional (Elephant) to deal with. Neither is necessarily wrong and we need both to accomplish whatever the task before us.

“Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our lives? The primary obstacle is a conflict that’s built into our brains. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems—the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control.”

My rational mind wants a runner’s physique; yet my emotional mind wants cake. The tension can doom a change effort.

The tension between the two is captured in the book by an analogy used by psychologist Jonathon Haidt in his book The Happiness Hypothesis. Haidt says that our emotional side is an Elephant and our rational side is its Rider. The Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the Rider is so small relative to the Elephant. Anytime the six-ton Elephant and the Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose.

All of us could name times when our Elephant overwhelms our Rider. You’ve experienced this if you’ve ever slept in, overeaten, or procrastinated. Our (Elephant) emotional side is clear: it is often looking for the quick payoff (cake) over the long-term payoff (having a runner’s physique). When change efforts fail, it’s usually the Elephant’s fault, since the kinds of change we want typically involve short-term sacrifices for long-term payoffs. (The Rider is the opposite; his strength is in long-term thinking). That doesn’t mean the Elephant is all bad; emotion is the Elephant’s turf—love, compassion, sympathy, loyalty, etc. The Elephant is the one who gets things done. The Rider tends to overanalyze and overthink things; his big weakness is spinning his wheels.

If you want to change things, you’ve got to appeal to both. The Rider provides the planning and direction, and the Elephant provides the energy. When the two move together, change comes easily. When the Rider and the Elephant disagree, you have a problem.

The Elephant has to have direction, if you want people to change, you must provide crystal-clear direction.

The following is the three part “framework.”

Direct the Rider, Motivate the Elephant, and Shape the Path.

This is the first chapter of a great and worthwhile book.


Leave a Reply