by davidlermy | 12:11 pm

book-switch-300x391Based on the book SWITCH by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Let’s begin with the two big questions:

  • “Can you get people to start behaving in a new way?”
  • “Can you change and start behaving in a new way?”

Successful change has a common pattern. The pattern is summed up in three things being guided at once:

  1. Appeal to people’s mind (DIRECT the Rider)

  2. Appeal to people’s heart (MOTIVATE the Elephant)

  3. Form the environment the other two happen within (SHAPE the Path)

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt in his book The Happiness Hypothesis claims that are emotional side is like an elephant, our rational side is like a rider on top of that elephant.

  • Yet, the rider has a hard time controlling a six-ton elephant.
  • When the rider and the elephant disagree, who do you think will win? The six-ton elephant of course!

For example, when the elephant wins, we see these moments as:

  • Oversleeping and being late to staff meeting.
  • Overeating (which never happens at a buffet, right?!?!)
  • Procrastinating
  • Staying up late playing XBOX or Apps or Facebook scrolling, Pinterest searching
  • Drinking too many Starbucks coffees or Monster energy drinks
  • Buying one too many shoes, outfits, hobby materials…
  • And on and on

The elephant is that side of us that wants a quick pay off (eating lots of ice cream) as opposed to the rider that looks at long term gain (being thin).

This does not mean the elephant is bad. We need emotions like:

  • Love
  • Compassion
  • Sympathy
  • Loyalty
  • Protecting our children and friends from harm
  • And on and on

First Key to Effective Change: DIRECT THE RIDER.

The rider needs a crystal clear direction.

Three things to know:

  1. Identify “bright spots.”
  2. Script the critical moves.
  3. Know the final destination.


  • Bright spots are the places where change is working and good change is already happening.
  • They are visual aids to help paint a picture of the change.

The rider is a thinker and a planner.

  • He plots the course for a more preferred future.
  • To help people get from HERE to THERE.

The rider paints a picture of such magnitude, not simply on the final destination, but on how bad things are NOW and HERE and that THERE is the only possible outcome for a profitable and preferred future.

Nevertheless, the rider can start to see negative areas and roadblocks everywhere.

Ever have that problem? Time to change and all you see is the tough spots?

  • This is called “analysis paralysis.” This is much like making a decision, when we see 18 types of bread and we get what’s called, “decision paralysis.”

Again, we tend to focus on the negative, fixing what is broken instead of what is possible. We need to ask, “What is working and how to we do more of it?”

  • Help the rider have a solid SOLUTION FOCUS.


Here is where we need to be precise.

  • You cannot say, “I will eat healthy,” that’s way too vague.
  • You have to say, “I will stop drinking too much Mountain Dew.” “No more Twinkies.” “No more late night rendezvous with the Mr. Blue Bell in the freezer.”
  • Each small victory here leads to a greater victory in the future.
  • The major key here is, “clarity dissolves resistance.”


As stated before, know what the target goal is, the end game.

Know what the THERE (sandy beach and deep blue ocean) is that makes the HERE and NOW look like a garbage dump.

The best way to do this practically is to explain in non-vague terms, “What does a win look like?”

Second Key to Effective Change: MOTIVATE THE ELEPHANT.  

We need to learn the language that speaks to people’s emotions.

  • Make more emotional appeals.
  • We often think this is bad, even manipulative. But it’s not.
  • Providing information does not truly motivate people.
  • Example: No one stops smoking by being “facted” to death. They quit smoking when they find out they are going to kill their self or someone else at a life changing doctor visit.

What is needed is motivation, which comes best from emotions, especially positive ones.

Three things to know:

  1. Focusing on Small Wins.
  2. Shrinking the Change.
  3. Growing Your People.


Create milestones that are actually within reach. (Ex: Smoking – don’t smoke for 24 hours instead of for one year.)

Obtainable goals make all the difference on achievement and morale.

  • It’s hard to celebrate saving the city, when you have only saved a dozen people.
  • If the goal was to save a dozen people, that boosts morale!
  • SO save the city, a dozen people at a time.


Remind people of the successful change already made (small wins).

Make sure they know they are not starting from scratch. You may have the same number of future steps, but starting from 3 is always better than starting from 1.

This create hope and build momentum!


Help people connect to with their identity.

Or even to connect with a new identity within the organization.

People always act in accordance with their identity.

Here it is critical to let people know that failure will happen, and that it is normal, and it’s okay. That way, when failure comes, and it will come, they won’t quit.

Quitting at the first sign of failure is demotivating and emotionally challenging.

Third Key to Effective Change: SHAPE THE PATH.

First off, understand that we must make the journey easier. Create a downhill path before giving a solid push.
For example, Wal-Mart shapes paths all the time.

  • Remember the last time you needed milk? You had to go all the way to the back of the store, right! Well, you end up getting milk, and about a dozen other things.
  • Their goal is to make more profits, so they shape an easy path to make more money.
  • They didn’t even have to hire anyone; you bought all the extras on your own. That is a pretty solid Return on Investment (ROI).

So here we have to change habits, and that has a ton to do with our current environment – the path in which our journey is headed.

  • Thus, change the environment and you can change the habit.

Three things to know:

  1. Create Action Triggers.
  2. Pre-Load the Decision.
  3. Rally the Herd.


Decide what you will do ahead of time and when you will do it.

This takes more work and planning up front but helps move faster later in the process.


Again, this makes it much easier to make decisions ahead of time, when you make them earlier in the process.

Plan up-front creates less confusion and you move faster. Plan late in the process and you may give up because of mass confusion, low morale, and early failure.


When a situation is ambiguous, we look to our co-workers for cues on how to behave.

Since change is often ambiguous, leading elephants through an unfamiliar paths can cause anxiety, so they will always follow the larger heard (which can be good or bad).

So publicize those who are doing the “right behaviors.”

Let everyone know where the herd (organization) is going, which can create momentum and excitement when done well.

Let the ones who are already on board and let them reinforce others, creating a synergy that will draw in the late adopters and those who are on the fence.


You may have heard the ancient proverb, “A long journey starts with a single step.” However, making the step does not guarantee you will finish the journey.

Again two things to be reminded:

  1. Recognize and celebrate the first step.
  2. Reinforce positive behaviors.

Again, learn how to spot positive behaviors, since most people focus on the negative ones.

The good news is once change starts, if it is reinforced, it will develop more and more momentum, taking on a life of its own. This is the highest goal.

So lets recap:

Change is not easy, but it’s at least possible.

What we known though, is that the best and lasting change, happens in a certain pattern.

Therefore, “people who change have clear direction, ample motivation, and a supportive environment. In other words, when change works; it is because the RIDER, the ELEPHANT, and the PATH are all aligned in support of the change… and you are able to make the SWITCH!”







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