If you’re looking for a extremely practical book about how to experience change, influence change or lead change in either your personal life or organization, Switch is the book for you. It’s not a dry, textbook or monotonous business book either. Brothers Chip and Dan Heath weave stories together in a very Malcolm Gladwellish way to produce a fun read that will also have you underlining and talking to others about what you’re learning.

They use an illustration that includes an elephant, a rider and a path throughout the book to make complex motivations and change resistors not only understandable but entertaining. Essentially, the rider represents a person’s rational intellect. The rider is motivated by facts, information and logic. If you can explain something to the rider, he will change.

The elephant represents the emotional side of a person or organization.

Analytical arguments will not overcome reluctance… The sequence of change is not analyze – think – change, but rather see – feel – change.

The Heaths point out that in many cases, we may know the facts, but it still doesn’t motivate change in our behavior (i.e., think about medical professionals who still smoke).

Trying to fight inertia and indifference with analytical arguments is like tossing a fire extinguisher to someone who’s drowning. The solution doesn’t match the problem.

Image from "Are Going Mental?" Click for article.

So how do you change or lead people to change? The book shares thoughts about changing ourselves, others and organizations in extremely manageable terms and gives one practical tools to use.

The third piece of the illustration is the path. It’s not enough to provide reasons (for the rider) and inspiration (for the elephant). For effective change to happen, there must be practical, doable steps to take toward that change. Too often, we default to negativity when we’re not experiencing desired change. The status quo suffocates us, and while we know we need to change and desire to do so, we can’t see our way to the change.

We also assume the worst at times about the people or situations in our life that seem to be blocking change.

A good change leader never thinks, “Why are these people acting so badly? They must be bad people.” A change leader thinks, “How can I set up a situation that brings out the good in these people?”

When we begin “tweaking” the environment (situation), we are able to help others build new habits. After new behaviors come into play, one begins to see change happen, and after a while, the herd is rallied, according to the Heaths, and the real transformation begins.

I’d highly recommend Switch for church leaders. Filter the book with scriptural principles, of course, but it has some dynamic material that will aid thinking theologians in becoming spiritual change agents for their churches and ministries.

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