Book Review: “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” by Chip and Dan Heath

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Scott Drotar Switch
In “Switch,” authors, Chip and Dan Heath, introduce a three part method for creating change.

As you may have noticed as of late, recently I have been thinking and writing a lot about the idea of change. Although my current focus probably stems from all of the new, exciting events that have been going on in my life, change is an inevitable and essential part of life, and it is something that should be studied and understood. In keeping with this theme, this week’s entry into the Scott Drotar Literary Review is a how-to guide on creating change in difficult situations. This week I present the intriguing book by brothers, Chip and Dan Heath, “Switch:How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.”

Chip and Dan Heath wrote this book in an attempt to help people understand how to create change in almost any situation. They break their method down into three parts and use the analogy of riding through the jungle on an elephant to illustrate each component. First, you must “direct the rider.” This involves giving clear and accurate information to those you want to make the change. This is when you are speaking to their logical, thinking brain. Second, you have to “motivate the elephant.” This involves getting in touch with people’s emotions and feelings to make them want to change. Here you are speaking to their hearts. Third, you need to “shape the path.” This involves framing the change you want them to make in the most effective way possible. This involves creating the best environment and atmosphere to make the transformation. If you point the rider in the right direction, get the elephant moving, and make sure the path is clear, you will have no problem getting through the jungle. Likewise, by giving people direction, making them feel like they want to change, and creating an environment that promotes change, you will be much more likely to succeed in altering people’s behaviors.

Scott Drotar Elephant Rider
In order to create change, you must “direct the rider,” “motivate the elephant,” and “shape the path.”

The method presented in “Switch” does a good job of breaking down the complicated topic of creating change. The writers have a smooth, enjoyable style that is easy to read and engaging, while also being informative. They use examples throughout the book to illustrate specific ideas within each of the three parts of the method. They also do a good job of citing and discussing the studies that provided the support for the concepts they discuss without boring you with pages of results. Overall, they found a great balance between writing a popular press type piece for the average reader and an advanced text for the academic. Regardless of your level of familiarity with the topic of change, you will find value in this book.

There were a few things that could be improved upon in this handbook on creating change. There were a few times where I felt like the idea they were trying to illustrate didn’t match up well with their example. I found myself having to reread and try to connect the dots, which was often difficult. I also felt like they would get ahead of themselves occasionally, and talk about a topic that they don’t explain until later in the book. The biggest problem I have though is that, while they give lots of information to explain their method, they do not provide much guidance on implementing it. I found myself wanting more information on how to apply their ideas in different contexts.

Chip and Dan do a good job of introducing a method for instituting change in various areas of your life. They break their method down into three distinct parts. You have to reach the minds, the hearts, and the environment of your target audience to have the best chance of successfully creating change. They do a wonderful job of presenting the information in a clear, concise way, but they were lacking in examples of how to apply their ideas, which is not good for a how-to guide. They also have issues with the order in which they introduce their topics, which was confusing at times. Despite the flaws, “Switch” is a great introduction to the concept of creating change, and it is definitely worth reading. This book gets a 3 out of 5 on the Roll Models Review Scale.

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