Change Made Simple – Overview

by Stephen Mills on March 2, 2010


Chip and Dan Heath of Made to Stick fame are out with a new book that looks to be a huge winner: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.  Check out 90+% five star reviews on Amazon.  It is currently a best seller on Amazon and the New York Times lists.

Switch is an excellent book with very practical advice that is made as easy to follow as you can imagine for such a broad and complex topic.  I really loved this book.  I bought the book at a Barnes and Noble.  When I was checking out, the sales clerk said “The whole world needs to read this book”.

I’m going to write a series summarizing the ideas and suggestions in the book and this first article in the series will be an overview.


The book covers individual, organizations, and societal change and does so in a reasonably concise way.  The book is organized around a metaphor of an elephant, the rider on the elephant, and the path the rider and the elephant take.  The elephant represents the emotional self, the rider represents the rational self, and the path represents the environment in which change occurs.  This metaphor works very well.  When the rider and the elephant do not agree, which is often, you have a problem.

The authors describe interesting research on human behavior that is relevant to their topic.  They also use a lot of real-world examples and stories to make it engaging and believable, really believable.  It is really well done.

The book and the process for making changes have three main parts described below.  The authors admit that they leave out a lot of “great thinking” on change in order to create a framework that is practical.  Maybe that’s what separates this book from many others.  Instead of droning on and on about theory, they try to create something that someone can actually put into practice.

You don’t have to finish the whole book to make use of it.  After reading the Find the Bright Spots chapter near the beginning of the book, I was already thinking of ways I could put the advice to use.

The process and the organization of the book into main parts and chapters is described below.

Direct the Rider

– What looks like resistance is often lack of clarity.  So provide crystal-clear direction.

  1. Find the Bright Spots
  2. Script the Critical Moves
  3. Point to the Destination

Motivate the elephant

– What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.  The Rider can’t get his way by force for very long.  So it’s critical that you engage people’s emotional side – get their Elephants on the path and cooperative.

  1. Find the Feeling
  2. Shrink the Change
  3. Grow Your People

Shape the Path

– What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.  We call the situation (including the surrounding environment) the “Path”.  When you shape the Path, you make change more likely, no matter what’s happening with the Rider and Elephant.

  1. Tweak the Environment
  2. Build Habits
  3. Rally the Herd

What’s Next?

Coming next is a summary of the ideas in Change Made Simple – Direct the Rider

What do YOU think?  Leave a comment and join the conversation.


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Change Made Simple – Direct the Rider
March 4, 2010 at 6:10 pm

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Jonny March 3, 2010 at 8:02 am

Lol, another person with a fetish for elephants.
.-= Jonny´s last blog ..Why Do You Blog? =-.


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