Great book, chock full of great advice and tools. If you haven’t pre-ordered it and this post is a reminder to do so, I won’t be insulted if you jump right now to the bottom of this post and click through to Amazon (or your own favorite bookseller).
I’m never sure how much I should give away with a review like this, but the basic idea of the book (beyond the sub-title, which is How to Change Things When Change is Hard) is that our emotional side is an Elephant and our rational side is its Rider and “any time the six-ton Elephant and Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose. He’s completely overmatched.”
I was lucky enough to receive a pre-release copy from the authors (Dan and Chip Heath, who also wrote another of my favorite books, Made to Stick)…and I understand that the idea is to generate excitement so people will go out and buy it. I only have a couple of quibbles about the book, but let me highlight the overriding themes with the plea that you buy the book and read the stories that surround these themes to really effect change in your life.
Theme No. 1: Direct the Rider. Basic idea here is that because resistance is often due to a lack of clarity, you need to provide crystal-clear direction. You do this by finding bright spots in otherwise dismal situations and then giving direction to the Rider, creating a sort-of sandwich where you describe both a start and a finish and provide what the Heaths call a “destination postcard.”
Theme No. 2: Motivate the Elephant. Here we’re focusing on driving change through motivation and we need to find the core emotional message that will get your Elephant moving. The Heaths argue that what sometimes looks like laziness is often exhaustion (i.e., the Rider can’t get his way by force for long). Knowledge isn’t enough to motivate change; you also need the confidence that you are capable of overcoming the challenge, that you are “big” enough to do it. The answer: Shrink the change and/or grow your people.
Theme No. 3: Shape the Path. As the Heaths put it, what looks like a people problem may actually be a situation problem, and changing your environment can often make change much easier. You can change the rules or the tools needed to do the job (i.e., “tweak the environment”) or create new habits. They offer a time-tested tool to marry these two approaches: checklists (which the authors promote with some nervousness). You can Rally the Herd (of Elephants) and get them to convince each other about the value of supporting change. And they introduce ways to keep the momentum going.
I go through books like this with a highlighter and pen, and transfer my notes into a small spiral notebook that helps me remember key points from everything I read. I took a lot of actionable ideas out of this book that will change the way I approach my life (business and personal). Had I read this book six months ago, my blog might well have been called Elephant Simplicity.
My only quibbles? It took awhile to get into the flow of the book’s structure — there’s a lot of bouncing between stories making them sometimes feel a bit redundant. And the Heaths use a tool they call a “Clinic” in which they describe a real-world situation and ask the reader to apply the Switch framework to create change. It’s a great idea — and they say you can read them as you go or come back to them later. I suggest you come back to them later, since they’re introduced in Chapter 3 but incorporate materials you’ll find throughout the rest of the book.
But again, those are quibbles. This book is a terrific investment. Here’s an excerpt. And here’s one place you can order it. My understanding is that pre-orders get aggregated and help the authors jump to the top of many bestseller lists in Week 1 and the discounts can more than offset the cost of shipping.
Please come back after you’ve read it and let everyone know what you thought.