Switch: Take Two


Switch_bookCOver Although I have a list of books I have reread in different moments or stages of my life, I have not reviewed a book twice… until now.

After reading and using Duarte's Resonate, I felt it would be useful for us to cross reference what we learned last week with Switch (Amazon affiliate link) by Dan Heath and Chip Heath, which I already reviewed here.

The subtitle of the book will tell you why: it's about how to change things when change is hard.

While Duarte's book teaches you how to think about developing the visual story and organizing its flow to support the hero's journey, Switch helps you drill down on how to craft your message to direct the Rider or our analytical side, motivate the Elephant or our emotional side, and shape the path or direction for the portion of the journey you organize.

As the Heath brothers explain, in interpersonal situations, what looks like a people problems is often a situation problem, what looks like laziness is often exhaustion, what looks like resistance is often lack of clarity. What causes these issues?

Weakness-focused thinking

Do you spend more time operating in your sweet spot, or trying to improve your weak points? According to Marcus Buckingham, years of research prove that individuals and teams playing to their strengths significantly outperform those who don't in almost every business metric.

"It's a continuous practice finding your strongest life. It takes attention, care, curiosity and fluidity." You need to find the bright spots.

The lesson: find what's working and do more of it.

Too many choices

We keep developing more choices — flavors, conference tracks, laptop colors, etc. — when the problem is in the opposite direction: too many choices. Why are all the knowledge and information we have not helpful? "We become overloaded. Choice no longer liberates, it debilitates. It might even be said tyrannize." [Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice, aff link]

Which is why when confronted with this scenario, people revert to status quo — the Rider can rest because the Elephant takes the default path, that which is most familiar. Uncertainty makes the Elephant nervous. I'd wager we don't generally do uncertainty very well.

The lesson: in addition to the high level direction, you need to script the critical moves.

Negative emotions

They tend to narrow our thinking and let in fear, anger, disgust, which then frustrate us further. Why does the world seek negative emotions? Because they focus us in a "putting in the blinders" kind of way. On the other hand, positive emotions don't seem engineered to produce particular actions.

However, they are designed to broaden and build our repertoire of thoughts and actions. The authors provide the example of how joy makes us want to play. And because it encourages us in that direction, it helps us broaden our skills.

The lesson: find the (positive) feeling to encourage open minds, creativity, and hope.

Setting daunting goals is another challenge, which is why great coaches help break them down into small things you can do today. The lesson at work is to help people believe in themselves first. This is important particularly given that we make decisions based upon how we think about ourselves — our identity.

In a decision-making situation we ask three questions:

  1. who am I?
  2. what kind of situation is this?
  3. what would someone like me do in this situation?

Think about how our purchasing decisions and business relationships flow naturally from who we are. I suggest that our identity is made up of several things:

  • heritage — where we were born, where we live, our age, educational background, etc.
  • environment — transient external factors such as the economy
  • needs — they include both what we truly need and what we think we need and actually just want
  • interactions — we also define ourselves in relationship with others

Our ability to grow depends upon our ability to shift from a fixed mindset — we are who we are and our wins are attached to that identity — to a growth mindset — tweaking the levers above to stretch. The fixed and growth mindset concepts come from the work of psychologist Carol Dweck in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (aff link).

Bringing about a successful change in behavior is the product of providing clear direction, ample motivation, and a supportive environment. What kinds of things can you tweak that are in the way of taking action to make change happen?

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0 responses to “Switch: Take Two”

  1. Thanks for this book review! This looks like an inspiring read. I have to admit that the weakness-focused thinking topic struck a sensitive chord a bit. I would sometimes be guilty of that. Well, I can’t wait to grab a copy of this book. Truly appreciate your post.

  2. I like your lessons summary Valeria. On the topic of ‘identity’ and making things happen, I think the social media landscape before us is an opportunity to craft/refine our identity. Each time we interact online, each post, tweet, update… is another opportunity to contribute to our own narrative/story of who we are. For those of us who have not been big journalers (before SM), social media gives us this amazing chance to incrementally add/connect together parts of ourselves, and deal with some of those paradoxes we all face.

  3. Reminds me of a quote I recently found from Ren (presumably, not the angry chihuahua from the cartoon).
    “More can be learned from what works than from what does not.”
    Appreciate the review, Valeria. I’m in the market for a new book and considering a couple options. I am particularly attracted to the bit about “Who am I, what kind of situation is this, what would someone like me do in this situation?”
    That’s pretty powerful stuff when you truly understand it.

  4. Years ago a creative consultant said, “focusing on what’s working will speed the process.” It’s stuck with me ever since. It seems human nature wants to believe the worst – particularly about ourselves. It’s so important to operate from a position of strength – acknowledge your weaknesses but don’t dwell on them – such negative emotions feed the downward spiral.
    Thanks for the summary – take 2; I’ve resisted this book. Loved Made to Stick but wasn’t sure this one was necessary. Seems it is!

  5. @Elmar – for some strange reason, everyone prefers to focus on what is wrong vs. what works. Lots of energy spent trying to fix instead of expanding good things…
    @Ben – which is a lesson I hope everyone is paying attention to. Kudos to you for understanding that we are our first audience. It’s an internal conversation in many ways.
    @Brian – this book was even better than the previous one they wrote, and it’s been more helpful to me in my work.
    @Patrick – the whole field of appreciative inquiry is about studying what works. I was lucky to be exposed to it in my early community facilitation days. This is better than Made to Stick (to me anyway). Given how smart you are about this kind of thinking, you will get a lot out of it, too.

  6. Thanks for this post, timed for my edification today – after a meeting with some ignorant colleagues who I have to get on the train (or it’ll never leave the station). I’m usually pretty resourceful, but cannot employ some methods usually at my disposal because of the politics involved. Switch is in my reading pile – and you’ve jumped it to the top now.

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