Switch: How To Change When Change Is HardBeing a big fan of Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick, I received their new book titled Switch as a Christmas present from my new sister-in-law. Chapter one was so good that I’m having trouble making myself not breeze through and really let these genius ideas marinate. I encourage you to read chapter one online for free. Just be ready to run out the nearest Barnes and Noble later that day.

The Heath brothers are known to drill their points with sticky stories. Go figure. But I want to highlight their main points and framework that can create change in organizations, your personal life, or even the world. So let’s dig into the key concept that the book is based around. Humans have two systems that are constantly working independently from each other. We have a emotional side and rational side. The emotional side is what I call your gut feelings that feels pleasure and pain. A persons’ intuitive instinct. Your rational side is a persons’ conscience system that analyzes situations. We need both to make good decisions.  See my pervious blog post on Gut Feelings Vs. Wikinomics Mashup: The New Traditional Way of Business for more information on why we need both. Below is a list of surprises that people normally misunderstand about change. Don’t forget to check Dan Heath’s podcast Switch For Marketers.

3 Surprises About Change

1. To change someone’s behavior, you’ve got to change their situation.  You’ve got to influence not only their environment but also their hearts and minds.

Switch uses Jonathan Haidts’ analogy of the Elephant and the Rider extracted from his book, The Happiness Hypothesis.  Our emotional side is the Elephant and our rational side is the Rider.  Heath brothers continued in writing,

Perched atop the Elephant, the Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the Rider’s control is precarious because the Rider is so small relative to the Elephant. Anytime the six-ton Elephant and the Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose. He’s completely overmatched.

If the Rider and Elephant disagree, then we have a problem. Even though the Rider can temporarily get the Elephant to submit by tugging on the reins, similar to a person’s willpower, the Rider will eventually exhausted.

Self-control is an exhaustible resource.


If people exhaust their self-control then they are exhausting the mental muscles needed to think creatively and continue when frustrated or fail. These are same mental muscle a person needs to make a big change. Change is hard because people wear themselves out, not because they are lazy.

2. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.

Of course if the Elephant isn’t motivated to change, then change isn’t going happen.  But the Rider also has to be sure in what direction to steer the Elephant or he will just lead him in circles.

3. What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.

Knowing these three surprises of change can help tackle the switch you want to make in your life, business, or society. From a marketer point-of-view, we might want to change customers’ attitude of your company and buying habits. Below is the basic three-part framework the Heath brothers expand on throughout their book. You can also download a more detailed outline copy in PDF format here. I suggest read the first chapter or if your in rush, listen to this great podcast below. Enjoy!

Switch For Marketers Podcast by Dan Heath

[audio https://runyoncm.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/switchformarketers.mp3]

Direct the Rider. What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So provide a crystal-clear direction (Think 1% milk).

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 crucial that you engage a persons’ emotional side —get their Elephant on the path and cooperative (Think of the boardroom conference table full of gloves).

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 (Think of the effect of shrinking movie popcorn buckets).

Made to Stick: SUCCESSEvery Super Bowl season, I look forward to watching the big game but even more in watching the commercials.  We all remember those great TV advertisements that seem to just stick in our minds, but why? What makes an idea sticky, that’s the hundred million dollar question that every ad agencies wants to know. Dan and Chip Heath, authors of Made to Stick, have the answers why some ideas survive and others die. The acronym SUCCES: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and stories.  The acronym its self is simple (of course) but lets break down each important component that makes an idea sticky.

SIMPLE

Being simple is about getting down to the core idea and finding that core idea. The authors use a great example by the Commander’s Intent (CI) that lets the extreme detailed plans of foot soldiers not to forget the basic mission assigned, do what’s necessary to complete the mission.  When we learn to prioritize our ideas to the essential core idea, it leaves a clear focus and objective to accomplish.

The short story of “Names, Names, Names” is another great example of how a newspaper has found its core belief. Their focus was on amount of local names the newspaper to increase circulation. People loved seeing the names of people they know and their own name inside the newspaper. Therefore, Dun North Carolina newspaper has pushed for local names ever since they discovered this sticky idea, becoming the leader for readership with 112 percent. SO think SIMPLE and get to the core idea.

UNEXPECTED

To get people to remember an event or idea, people need to be disrupted from their normal schema. For Example, a flight attendant making quick unexpected joke about the disco lights on the floor to exit the plane will catch everyone’s attention because it’s not a part of the normal routine. Another way to grab and hold persons’ attention is by surprise. The Buckle Up…Always commercial by the Ad council is sticky because it shows how to disrupt the normal schema about driving safety in neighborhoods. When a car comes flying into the side of the minivan AND BOOM! It highlights the idea that accidents can happen everywhere, even in your quiet neighborhood. This shocking event makes us remember to always buckle up. The commercial was successful in sending its message. UNEXPECTED, got it?

CONCRETE

Sticky ideas are concrete. I remember learning addition and subtraction math problems by using concrete images like apples. This has been the success story for Japan in why their students are more advanced in mathematics.  The Nature Conservancy, or TNC, has also caught on in using sticky ideas in their environment project to save land. Their goal was to save two million acres. WOW, that’s a lot of land, specially to most public and private businesses wanting to help conserve the rare land by donating money. So they began to split this idea in tangible and reachable goals so they didn’t overwhelm businesses. They redesign their goals into a more realistic look in saving acreage in terms called landscapes. The new objective was to save five landscapes. Eventually over time, TNC protected all two million acres of land. Landscapes were the new type of measurement that allowed TNC to be successful in accomplishing their goals.

Concrete ideas can also work in explaining complex ideas like racial discrimination to elementary school students. By breaking down abstract ideas like  racial discrimination and transforming them into concrete idea like blue-eyed brown-eyed kids activities,  children can make better sense of the information.

CREDIBLE

Today, everyone wants proof to know if products work. To make people believe in your idea, it must be credible. Two scientists, Warren and Marshall experience this first hand in their discovery that bacteria caused ulcers in the stomach. A simple action of taking antibiotics and bismuth would cure the pain but that was not enough to make the medical world believe. Being interns in training, their credible wasn’t established.

Winning the credibility of others is a fight against personal learning and social relationships that have been crafts over years of life experiences.

It takes great amount work to persuade a person with a new message. Celebrities that match our own morals are great sources of credibility, like Oprah and her book club. Once Oprah has your novel on her list, it’s a bestseller a week later. People idolize Oprah and respect her decisions. Her fans naturally think “If Oprah likes it, I must like it too.”

EMOTIONAL

Sticky ideas play on our emotions. We are human and hate to see others struggle. Most charities you see on TV focus on one personal story, usually a cute malnourished girl. We have all seen her cute face. We are more likely to make that idea stick to help out the little girl when they play on own human emotions. Again, being overwhelmed by the scale of the problem might make a person feel their contribution is meaningless. But if you tap into just one individual story, it gives hope us the idea that one person can affect other people’s lives.

The Philip Morris’ anti-smoking advertisements started the Truth campaign.

These commercials were stuck in our mind because they were emotional (and concrete). Instead of acting rebellious against The Man by smoking, Truth campaign made tobacco companies the new Man. Advertisers associated emotions that already existed and transferred them on the tobacco companies.

STORIES

Everyone likes a good story. They can either motivate us to act or provide knowledge about how to act. But the bottom line is stories make people act and can transfer messages through entertainment. Instead of using a dry email to send message about a copier error, people could tell the story of the Xerox repairman and mystery code that led two men on a wild goose chase around the office…Weird but within the story holds the message.

People want to be entertained NOT giving instructions. Stories are successful because they subtly transfer a message in an entertaining way.

Sticky ideas = S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Advertisers can have a long effective frequency of viewers by using these sticky suggestions. Ideas should have a primary focus and simple core. Get rid of all the non-essentials. Ideas should break out of own normal schemas for idea to be more memorable. Ideas should be concrete and in context that people can understand. Ideas have to be from a trusting source. Credibility is crucial in persuading people of your message. Ideas must make people care. Emotional ideas are effective because they make us feel and want to act. Finally, stories make us informed and take action while still being entertained. The message is not lost in the story but is highlighted through the interesting account.

What is your favorite sticky idea you know?

For more sticky ideas, visit heathbrothers.com

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