Change is hard. All efforts of changing things in business, organization, society or home boils down to one fact – Can we get people to start behaving in a new way? Chip & Dan Heath give a framework to how to instill this change and SWITCH behavior to achieve the desired outcome. In Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, the authors explain why some attempts to change are more successful than others. If you are in the role of a “change agent” this book is your manual.

Right off the bat I’ll say this – the book is a pleasure to read. The illustrations and examples of how and where the change element was introduced to get the result are extremely useful. I could visualize the examples to feel the changes. This is a great ‘How to’ book filled with practical ideas and good habits that can be inculcated to bring about desired results.

The book says change is possible when you influence not only the environment but also the hearts and minds of the people that have to bring about the change.

The human mind has two sides, one is rational another emotional. The rational side always wants to get up early and exercise, but the emotional side likes to rest a little more and then some more. To understand this conflict and resolve it, the book terms the emotional side as an ELEPHANT and rational side as RIDER. For change to be effective, both Rider & Elephant have to move together..

The rider who can gain control over their emotions wins the war. Similarly, we know it takes time to get meaningful returns in equity and our emotional mind is troubled by dips in the value of the portfolio. But if the emotions are under the rider’s control, both stand to gain handsomely in the long term.

If you want to change things you got to appeal both the emotional & Logical side of the brain. The rider provides planning & direction and the elephant provide the energy.

The book gives exact three part framework which can guide you in any situation where you need to change behavior.  To change behavior, you have got to direct the rider, motivate the elephant, and shape the path.

  • Direct the rider – What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So provide crystal clear direction. For e.g., to control weight gain because of saturated fats, direct the people to buy 1% fat milk. Tellthem exactly what to do.


  • Motivate the elephant – What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. The rider can’t get his way by force very long. So it’s critical that you engage people’s emotional side. For e.g., to appeal the emotional side in cost cutting measure of the organization author gives example of an executive bringing in heap of gloves to the boardroom table, to show the members enormous variations in prices of similar gloves procured by various department.


  • Shape the path – What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. When you shape the path, you make change more likely, no matter what’s happening with the rider and Elephant. For e.g., in a study conducted when people are given popcorn in a very large container, they ate more without consciousness vs same set of people given the small container they consumed less popcorn.

Direct the Rider section further elaborately explains how to bring in change by following the bright spot in a situation and script the critical moves – i.e.,  tell exactly what to do to achieve result keep end goal in mind by pointing to the direction.

Motivate the Elephant section has chapters on Find the feeling which is important to move elephant, we need to Shrink the change by giving small targets , these small wins creates momentum to achieve early and elephant gets motivated and  to keep on target Grow your people.

Shape the path section covers on how to build habits to continue the change by tweaking in environment and rally the herd to keep SWITCH going.

Great books broaden a reader’s world outlook, and the Heaths broaden outlooks very well. They do it with an optimistic tone that strengthens their points and the utility of their concepts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.