Derek Sivers

Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Switch - by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Switch - by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Amazon page for details and reviews.

Great great great great GREAT psychology book about real ways to make change last - both personal and organizational. So many powerful insights, based on fact not theory. Inspiring counterintuitive stories of huge organizational change against all odds. Highly recommended for everyone.

my notes

People with the large buckets ate 53 percent more popcorn than people with the medium size. Bigger container = more eating.

Imagine that someone showed you the data from the popcorn-eating study but didn’t mention the bucket sizes. A public-health expert, studying that data alongside you, would likely get very worried about the Gluttons. We need to motivate these people to adopt healthier snacking behaviors! Let’s find ways to show them the health hazards of eating so much!

But wait a second. If you want people to eat less popcorn, the solution is pretty simple: Give them smaller buckets.

You don’t have to worry about their knowledge or their attitudes. You can see how easy it would be to turn an easy change problem (shrinking people’s buckets) into a hard change problem (convincing people to think differently). And that’s the first surprise about change:

What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.

Clocky is not a product for a sane species. If Spock wants to get up at 5:45 a.m., he’ll just get up. No drama required. Our built-in schizophrenia is a deeply weird thing, but we don’t think much about it because we’re so used to it.

Elephant and Rider metaphor (from Happiness Hypothesis):

If you’re contemplating a change, the Elephant is the one who gets things done. To make progress toward a goal, whether it’s noble or crass, requires the energy and drive of the Elephant. And this strength is the mirror image of the Rider’s great weakness: spinning his wheels. The Rider tends to overanalyze and overthink things.

The Rider provides the planning and direction, and the Elephant provides the energy.

When the Elephant really wants something, the Rider can be trusted to find rationalizations for it.

The Rider has his own issues. He’s a navel-gazer, an analyzer, a wheel-spinner. If the Rider isn’t sure exactly what direction to go, he tends to lead the Elephant in circles.

To change behavior, you’ve got to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path. If you can do all three at once, dramatic change can happen

Self-control is an exhaustible resource. We burn up self-control in a wide variety of situations: managing the impression we’re making on others; coping with fears; controlling our spending.

When people try to change things, they’re usually tinkering with behaviors that have become automatic, and changing those behaviors requires careful supervision by the Rider. The bigger the change you’re suggesting, the more it will sap people’s self-control. And when people exhaust their self-control, what they’re exhausting are the mental muscles needed to think creatively, to focus, to inhibit their impulses, and to persist in the face of frustration or failure. In other words, they’re exhausting precisely the mental muscles needed to make a big change.

Jerry Sternin who found how to turn around malnutrition in Vietnam: Most people in Sternin’s situation would have been itching to make an announcement, to call the village together and unveil a set of recommendations. Gather ’round, everyone: I’ve studied your problem and now I have the answer! Here are Sternin’s 5 Rules for Fighting Malnutrition. But Sternin refused to make a formal announcement.

Knowledge does not change behavior. We have all encountered crazy shrinks and obese doctors and divorced marriage counselors.

Bright spots solve the “Not Invented Here” problem. Some people have a knee-jerk skeptical response to “imported” solutions. Imagine the public outcry if an American politician proposed that the United States adopt the French health care system. (Or vice versa.) We all think our group is the smartest. By looking for bright spots within the very village he was trying to change, Sternin ensured that the solution would be a native one.

They weren’t experts. They didn’t walk in with the answers. All they had was a deep faith in the power of bright spots.

Suppose that you go to bed tonight and sleep well. Sometime, in the middle of the night, while you are sleeping, a miracle happens and all the troubles that brought you here are resolved. When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first small sign you’d see that would make you think, ‘Well, something must have happened - the problem is gone!’?” The Miracle Question doesn’t ask you to describe the miracle itself; it asks you to identify the tangible signs that the miracle happened.

A second question, which is perhaps even more important. The Exception Question: “When was the last time you saw a little bit of the miracle, even just for a short time?”
Demonstrate, in a subtle way, is that the client is capable of solving her own problem. As a matter of fact, the client is offering up proof that she’s already solved it.
Let’s replay that scene, where things were working for you. What was happening? How did you behave?
You are simply asking yourself, “What’s working and how can we do more of it?”

Big problem, small solution. This is a theme you will see again and again. Big problems are rarely solved with commensurately big solutions. Instead, they are most often solved by a sequence of small solutions, sometimes over weeks, sometimes over decades.

“What’s working, and how can we do more of it?” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet, in the real world, this obvious question is almost never asked. Instead, the question we ask is more problem focused: “What’s broken, and how do we fix it?”

“Bad is stronger than good.”
Exhibit A: People who were shown photos of bad and good events spent longer viewing the bad ones.
Exhibit B: When people learn bad stuff about someone else, it’s stickier than good stuff.
People pay closer attention to the bad stuff, reflect on it more, remember it longer, and weigh it more heavily in assessing the person overall.

When your kids are making A’s and B’s, you don’t think much about their grades. But when they make a D or an F, you spring into action. It’s weird when you think about, isn’t it?

Decisions are the Rider’s turf, and because they require careful supervision and self-control, they tax the Rider’s strength. (Remember the radish/chocolate-chip cookie study from Chapter 1.) The more choices the Rider is offered, the more exhausted the Rider gets.

To spark movement in a new direction, you need to provide crystal-clear guidance. That’s why scripting is important - you’ve got to think about the specific behavior that you’d want to see in a tough moment.

Both succeeded by formulating solutions that were strikingly smaller than the problems they were intended to solve.

The challenges facing Miner County were big and sprawling: the decline of an industrial base, the aging of a population. The citizens understood these challenges well, but the knowledge was TBU - true but useless. It was paralyzing knowledge.

We want a goal that can be tackled in months or years, not decades. We want what we might call a destination postcard - a vivid picture from the near-term future that shows what could be possible.

You have to back up your destination postcard with a good behavioral script. That’s a recipe for success.

In almost all successful change efforts, the sequence of change is not ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE, but rather SEE-FEEL-CHANGE.

Positive illusion: Our brains are positive illusion factories: Only 2 percent of high school seniors believe their leadership skills are below average. A full 25 percent of people believe they’re in the top 1 percent in their ability to get along with others.

Positive emotions are designed to “broaden and build” our repertoire of thoughts and actions. Joy, for example, makes us want to play. Play doesn’t have a script, it broadens the kinds of things we consider doing. We become willing to fool around, to explore or invent new activities. And because joy encourages us to play, we are building resources and skills.

The positive emotion of interest broadens what we want to investigate. When we’re interested, we want to get involved, to learn new things, to tackle new experiences. We become more open to new ideas. The positive emotion of pride, experienced when we achieve a personal goal, broadens the kinds of tasks we contemplate for the future, encouraging us to pursue even bigger goals.

Robyn Waters of Target, a master of positive emotions. She didn’t try to create a burning platform: “Wal-Mart is eating our lunch! Target is on its deathbed! Come with me into the fiery seas!” Instead, she found a way to engage the fresh thinking and enthusiasm of her colleagues.

People find it more motivating to be partly finished with a longer journey than to be at the starting gate of a shorter one.

One way to motivate action, then, is to make people feel as though they’re already closer to the finish line than they might have thought.

That sense of progress is critical, because the Elephant in us is easily demoralized.

If you’re leading a change effort, you better start looking for those first two stamps to put on your team’s cards. Rather than focusing solely on what’s new and different about the change to come, make an effort to remind people what’s already been conquered.

A business cliché commands us to “raise the bar.” But that’s exactly the wrong instinct if you want to motivate a reluctant Elephant. You need to lower the bar.

What good is a 5-minute session of cleaning? Not much. It gets you moving, though, and that’s the hardest part. Starting an unpleasant task is always worse than continuing it. So once you start cleaning house, chances are you won’t stop at 5 minutes.

Because identities are central to the way people make decisions, any change effort that violates someone’s identity is likely doomed to failure. (That’s why it’s so clumsy when people instinctively reach for “incentives” to change other people’s behavior.) So the question is this: How can you make your change a matter of identity rather than a matter of consequences?

Identity is going to play a role in nearly every change situation. Even yours.

When you think about the people whose behavior needs to change, ask yourself whether they would agree with this statement: “I aspire to be the kind of person who would make this change.” If their answer is yes, that’s an enormous factor in your favor. If their answer is no, then you’ll have to work hard to show them that they should aspire to a different self-image.

Three identity questions:
- Who am I?
- What kind of situation is this?
- What would someone like me do in this situation?

The Elephant really, really hates to fail. This presents a difficulty for you when you are trying to change or when you’re trying to lead change. You know that you or your audience will fail, and you know that the failure will trigger the “flight” instinct. How do you keep the Elephant motivated when it faces a long, treacherous road? The answer may sound strange: You need to create the expectation of failure - not the failure of the mission itself, but failure en route. This notion takes us into a fascinating area of research that is likely to change the way you view the world.

People who have a growth mindset believe that abilities are like muscles - they can be built up with practice. With concerted effort, you can make yourself better at writing or managing or listening to your spouse. With a growth mindset, you tend to accept more challenges despite the risk of failure.

You’re more inclined to accept criticism, because ultimately it makes you better. You may not be as good as others right now, but you’re thinking long-term, in a tortoise-versus-hare kind of way.

A growth mindset compliment praises effort rather than natural skill: “I’m proud of how hard you worked on that project!” “I could tell you listened to your coach’s comments - you really had your elbow under those jump shots today.”

Students were reminded that “Everything is hard before it is easy,” and that they should never give up because they didn’t master something immediately.

To create and sustain change, you’ve got to act more like a coach and less like a scorekeeper. You’ve got to embrace a growth mindset and instill it in your team.

IDEO: When a team embarks on a new project, team members are filled with hope and optimism. As they start to collect data and observe real people struggling with existing products, they find that new ideas spring forth effortlessly. Then comes the difficult task of integrating all those fresh ideas into a coherent new design. At this “insight” stage, it’s easy to get depressed, because insight doesn’t always strike immediately. The project often feels like a failure in the middle. But if the team persists through this valley of angst and doubt, it eventually emerges with a growing sense of momentum. Team members begin to test out their new designs, and they realize the improvements they’ve made, and they keep tweaking the design to make it better. And they come to realize, we’ve cracked this problem. That’s when the team reaches the peak of confidence.

Notice what team leaders at IDEO are doing with the peaks-and-valley visual: They are creating the expectation of failure. They are telling team members not to trust that initial flush of good feeling at the beginning of the project, because what comes next is hardship and toil and frustration. Yet, strangely enough, when they deliver this warning, it comes across as optimistic. That’s the paradox of the growth mindset. Although it seems to draw attention to failure, and in fact encourages us to seek out failure, it is unflaggingly optimistic. We will struggle, we will fail, we will be knocked down - but throughout, we’ll get better, and we’ll succeed in the end. The growth mindset, then, is a buffer against defeatism. It reframes failure as a natural part of the change process. And that’s critical, because people will persevere only if they perceive falling down as learning rather than as failing.

The teams who failed made the mistake of trying to “get it right on the first try” and were motivated by the chance to “perform, to shine, or to execute perfectly.” But of course no one “shines” on the first few tries - this mindset set the teams up for failure. By contrast, the successful teams focused on learning. They didn’t assume that mastery would come quickly, and they anticipated that they’d face challenges. In the end, they were the ones who were more likely to get it right.

Students often didn’t do their homework, or they turned in shoddy work. Getting a D or an F was an easy way out in a way. They might get a poor grade, but at least they would be done. In the new system, the students couldn’t stop until they’d cleared the bar. “We define up front to the kids what’s an A, B, and C,” said Howard. “If they do substandard work, the teacher will say, ‘Not Yet.’”

People have a systematic tendency to ignore the situational forces that shape other people’s behavior. He called this deep-rooted tendency the “Fundamental Attribution Error.” The error lies in our inclination to attribute people’s behavior to the way they are rather than to the situation they are in.

Some students received a basic letter announcing the launch of a food drive the following week and asking them to bring canned food to a booth on Tressider Plaza (a well-known spot on campus). Other students received a more detailed letter, which included a map to the precise spot, a request for a can of beans, and a suggestion that they think about a time when they’d ordinarily be near Tressider Plaza so they wouldn’t have to go out of their way to get there.

Students who received the more detailed letter were substantially more charitable: 42 percent

Notice how many times people have tweaked the environment to shape your behavior.

Example: Robby and Kent who frequently arrive late and then sit in the back of the room:
Shape the Path.
1. Tweak the environment. Lock the door when the bell rings so latecomers are stuck in the hallway.
2. Build habits. Start having a daily quiz with one or two quick questions at the beginning of every class. If Robby and Kent aren’t present to take the quiz, they’ll fail.
3. Rally the herd. Post a class “on-time” record on the wall. Maybe when Robby and Kent see that they’re the only students violating the social norm to be on time, they’ll change their ways.
4. Build habits. Set a policy that the last student in his or her seat every day will be asked to answer the first question.
5. Rally the herd. Find a way to let Robby and Kent know that the other students dislike what they’re doing (as they almost certainly do). Often troublemakers have the illusion that their defiant behavior makes them folk heroes. They can be deflated quickly by frank peer feedback.
6. Tweak the environment. Do what Bart Millar actually did: He bought a used couch and put it right at the front of the classroom. It was immediately obvious that this couch was the cool place to sit - students could slouch and relax instead of sitting at a dorky desk. Suddenly Robby and Kent started getting to class early every day so they could “get a good seat.” They were volunteering to sit at the front of the classroom. Genius.

Leaders had to reshape the Path consciously. With some simple tweaks to the environment, suddenly the right behaviors emerged. It wasn’t the people who changed; it was the situation. What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.

Design an environment in which undesired behaviors are made not only harder but impossible.

In trying to minimize the risk of bad outcomes, injury-prevention experts often turn to the Haddon Matrix, a simple framework that provides a way to think systematically about accidents by highlighting three key periods of time: pre-event, event, and post-event.

Why are habits so important? They are, in essence, behavioral autopilot. They allow lots of good behaviors to happen without the Rider taking charge. Remember that the Rider’s self-control is exhaustible, so it’s a huge plus if some positive things can happen “free” on autopilot. To change yourself or other people, you’ve got to change habits.

Rackspace example: When the call-queuing system was thrown out, the customer-service staffers quickly developed the habit of answering the phone.

Action triggers can have a profound power to motivate people to do the things they know they need to do. Peter Gollwitzer argues that the value of action triggers resides in the fact that we are preloading a decision. Dropping off Anna at school triggers the next action, going to the gym. There’s no cycle of conscious deliberation. By preloading the decision, we conserve the Rider’s self-control.

When people predecide, they “pass the control of their behavior on to the environment.” Gollwitzer says that action triggers “protect goals from tempting distractions, bad habits, or competing goals.”

Habits are behavioral autopilot, and that’s why they’re such a critical tool for leaders. Leaders who can instill habits that reinforce their teams’ goals are essentially making progress for free. They’ve changed behavior in a way that doesn’t draw down the Rider’s reserves of self-control.

Habits will form inevitably, whether they’re formed intentionally or not. You’ve probably created lots of team habits unwittingly. If your staff meetings always start out with genial small talk, then you’ve created a habit. You’ve designed your meeting autopilot to yield a few minutes of warm-up small talk. The hard question for a leader is not how to form habits but which habits to encourage.

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?”

Checklists educate people about what’s best, showing them the ironclad right way to do something. (That means that checklists are effective at directing the Rider.)

People fear checklists because they see them as dehumanizing - maybe because they associate them with the exhaustive checklists that allow inexperienced teenagers to operate fast-food chains successfully. They think if something is simple enough to be put in a checklist, a monkey can do it. Well, if that’s true, grab a pilot’s checklist and try your luck with a 747. Checklists simply make big screwups less likely.

Shamu didn’t learn to jump through a hoop because her trainer was bitching at her. She learned because she had a trainer who was patient and focused and reinforced every step of the journey.

Cognitive dissonance works in your favor. People don’t like to act in one way and think in another. So once a small step has been taken, and people have begun to act in a new way, it will be increasingly difficult for them to dislike the way they’re acting. Similarly, as people begin to act differently, they’ll start to think of themselves differently, and as their identity evolves, it will reinforce the new way of doing things.

DIRECT the Rider

FOLLOW THE BRIGHT SPOTS.
Investigate what’s working and clone it.
[Jerry Sternin in Vietnam, solutions-focused therapy]

SCRIPT THE CRITICAL MOVES.
Don’t think big picture, think in terms of specific behaviors.
[1% milk, four rules at the Brazilian railroad]

POINT TO THE DESTINATION.
Change is easier when you know where you’re going and why it’s worth it.
[“You’ll be third graders soon,” “No dry holes” at BP]

MOTIVATE the Elephant

FIND THE FEELING.
Knowing something isn’t enough to cause change. Make people feel something.
[Piling gloves on the table, the chemotherapy video game, Robyn Waters’s demos at Target]

SHRINK THE CHANGE.
Break down the change until it no longer spooks the Elephant.
[The 5-Minute Room Rescue, procurement reform]

GROW YOUR PEOPLE.
Cultivate a sense of identity and instill the growth mindset.
[Brasilata’s “inventors,” junior-high math kids’ turnaround]

SHAPE the Path

TWEAK THE ENVIRONMENT.
When the situation changes, the behavior changes. So change the situation.
[Throwing out the phone system at Rackspace, 1-Click ordering, simplifying the online time sheet]

BUILD HABITS.
When behavior is habitual, it’s “free” - it doesn’t tax the Rider.
Look for ways to encourage habits.
[Setting “action triggers,” eating two bowls of soup while dieting, using checklists]

RALLY THE HERD.
Behavior is contagious. Help it spread.
[“Fataki” in Tanzania, “free spaces” in hospitals, seeding the tip jar]

OTHER READING:
See John Kotter and Dan Cohen’s essential book "The Heart of Change"
must-read book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,