Life is full of change. Sometimes it happens suddenly, sometimes it is carefully planned, and sometimes it is extreme. Change is almost never easy regardless of its type.  Effective change is forming new behaviors while removing old ones. As simple as that concept may sound, it is extremely hard in practice.

Switch by Chip and Dan Heath is a book that seeks to make the process of change easier. Three concepts are laid out as a foundation of any good plan for change. Successful changes mean Directing the Rider, Motivating the Elephant, and Clearing the Path.

Directing the Rider

First, Directing the Rider refers to how people deal with their rational side. Reasoning and thought are the strong side of the rider but, can also lead the rider to “decision paralysis”. The rider will think through a problem and its potential solutions rather than taking action. Directing the rider points them to a specific set of actions.  This allows them to embrace the change without spinning their wheels.

Motivating the Elephant

pin-board-978197_960_720Next, Motivating the Elephant refers to how people deal with their much stronger emotional side. Directing a rider on an elephant to go one way when the elephant wants to go another can be a futile effort.  A person’s emotional side usually overpowers their rational. Motivating the elephant means establishing belief in the success of the change and accepting the reasons behind it. Minimizing the change itself into smaller steps also proves to be a great motivator.  An elephant knowing it only has to do one small thing extra can be great when it originally thought the entire world was going to change.

Clearing the Path

Lastly, Clearing the Path refers to the end goal and the path it takes to get there. It doesn’t matter how directed the rider is or how motivated the elephant is.  Ff the entire path is filled with giant oak trees nobody is going anywhere fast. The goal is making change as easy as possible. Making small tweaks to the change environment, encouraging questions along the way, and celebrating success are all ways to clear the path. Clearing the brush and trees from the path t makes the change itself a lot easier to achieve.

Switch is a fairly easy read. The book is written using plenty of analogies and case study examples. A wealth of other books are cited for additional reading. Taking notes on the book would be an exhaustive prospect as there are a lot of great points made. I’ve personally referred to this Six Minute Summary by Penn State University as my “notes” from the book. 

Implementing the concepts from Switch is not plug and play. Concept tweaking to fit the environment and people involved is critical to the success of the Switch playbook. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to better navigate change in their personal and professional life.