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Cover of Switch

Switch

How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
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Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives?

The primary obstacle is a conflict that's built into our brains, say Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the critically acclaimed bestseller Made to Stick. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems--the rational mind and the emotional mind--that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort--but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.

In Switch, the Heaths show how everyday people--employees and managers, parents and nurses--have united both minds and, as a result, achieved dramatic results:

● The lowly medical interns who managed to defeat an entrenched, decades-old medical practice that was endangering patients.

● The home-organizing guru who developed a simple technique for overcoming the dread of housekeeping.

● The manager who transformed a lackadaisical customer-support team into service zealots by removing a standard tool of customer service

In a compelling, story-driven narrative, the Heaths bring together decades of counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline.

From the Hardcover edition.

Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives?

The primary obstacle is a conflict that's built into our brains, say Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the critically acclaimed bestseller Made to Stick. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems--the rational mind and the emotional mind--that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort--but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.

In Switch, the Heaths show how everyday people--employees and managers, parents and nurses--have united both minds and, as a result, achieved dramatic results:

● The lowly medical interns who managed to defeat an entrenched, decades-old medical practice that was endangering patients.

● The home-organizing guru who developed a simple technique for overcoming the dread of housekeeping.

● The manager who transformed a lackadaisical customer-support team into service zealots by removing a standard tool of customer service

In a compelling, story-driven narrative, the Heaths bring together decades of counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1

    The Three Surprises About Change

    1.

    One Saturday in 2000, some unsuspecting moviegoers showed up at a suburban theater in Chicago to catch a 1:05 P.M matinee of Mel Gibson's action flick Payback. They were handed a soft drink and a free bucket of popcorn and asked to stick around after the movie to answer a few questions about the concession stand. These movie fans had unwittingly entered a study of irrational eating behavior.1

    There was something unusual about the popcorn they received. It was wretched. In fact, it had been carefully engineered to be wretched. It'd been popped five days earlier and was so stale that it squeaked when you ate it. One moviegoer later compared it to Styrofoam packing peanuts, and two others, forgetting that they'd received the popcorn for free, demanded their money back.

    Some of them got their free popcorn in a medium-sized bucket, and others got a large bucket--the sort of huge tub that looks like it might once have been an above-ground swimming pool. Everybody got their own individual bucket so there'd be no need to share. The researchers responsible for the study were interested in a simple question: Would the people with bigger buckets eat more?

    Both buckets were designed to be so big that no one could finish their portion. So the actual research question was a bit more specific: Would somebody with a larger inexhaustible supply of popcorn eat more than someone with a smaller inexhaustible supply?

    The sneaky researchers weighed the buckets before and after the movie, so they were able to measure precisely how much popcorn each person ate. The results were stunning: People with the large buckets ate 53 percent more popcorn than people with the medium size. That's the equivalent of 173 more calories and approximately 21 extra hand-dips into the bucket.2

    The author of the study, Brian Wansink, runs the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and he described the results in his book Mindless Eating: "We've run other popcorn studies, and the results were always the same, however we tweaked the details. It didn't matter if our moviegoers were in Pennsylvania, Illinois, or Iowa, and it didn't matter what kind of movie was showing; all of our popcorn studies led to the same conclusion. People eat more when you give them a bigger container. Period."

    No other theory explains the behavior. These people weren't eating for pleasure. (The popcorn was so stale it squeaked!) They weren't driven by a desire to "finish their portion." (Both buckets were too big to finish.) It didn't matter whether they were hungry or full. The equation is unyielding: Bigger container = more eating.

    Best of all, people refused to believe the results. After the movie, the researchers told the moviegoers about the two bucket sizes and the findings of their past research. The researchers asked, do you think you ate more because of the larger size? The vast majority scoffed at the idea, saying things like, "Things like that don't trick me," or "I'm pretty good at knowing when I'm full."

    Whoops.

    2.

    Imagine that someone showed you the data from this study but didn't mention the bucket sizes. On your data summary, you'd see how much popcorn each person ate. You could quickly scan the results and see the differences--some people ate a little bit of popcorn, some ate a lot, and some seem determined to test the physical limits of the human stomach. Armed with a data set like that, you would have found it easy to jump to conclusions. Some people in the world are Reasonable Snackers and others are Big Gluttons.

    A public health expert, studying that data alongside you, would likely get very...

About the Author-
  • Chip Heath is the Thrive Foundation for Youth Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. Dan Heath is a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke University. Together, they are the authors of the national bestseller Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. They write a regular column in Fast Company magazine, and have appeared on Today, NPR's Morning Edition, MSNBC, CNBC, and have been featured in Time, People and US News and World Report.

    From the Hardcover edition.

Reviews-
  • The Wall Street Journal

    "Witty and instructive...The Heath brothers think that the sciences of human behavior can provide us with tools for making changes in our lives--tools that are more effective than 'willpower,' 'leadership' and other easier-said-than-done solutions. ...For any effort at change to succeed, the Heaths argue, you have to 'shape the path.' With Switch they have shaped a path that leads in a most promising direction."

  • Fort Worth Star-Telegram "'Your brain is not of one mind,'" say the brothers Heath, co-authors of the bestseller Made to Stick. Using the terminology of University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt, the Heaths designate the emotional side of the mind as the Elephant and the rational side as the Rider...Switch is crammed with stories...covering a number of fields to drive home the importance of using the strengths of both the Rider and the Elephant to make change happen. This could be a valuable read for the would-be change-makers of the Obama administration."
  • Time "Whether you're a manager, a parent or a civic leader, getting people to change can be tricky business. In Switch, brothers Chip and Dan Heath--authors of the best-selling Made to Stick--survey efforts to shape human behavior in search of what works...Even when change isn't easy, it's often worth making."
  • BusinessWeek.com "Dan and Chip Heath have done it again...Any leader looking to create change in his organization need not look beyond this little book. It is packed with examples and hands-on tools that will get you moving right away. And it is really a fun read."
  • Smartmoney.com "No one likes change. Trouble is, of course, that everyone probably needs at least some of it. Here, the authors of the bestselling Made to Stick return with a book that looks at all aspects of change in human lives, from dieting to spending, from corporations to governments...a readable, entertaining and thought-provoking book. "
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