Switch – By Chip Heath and Dan Heath – Complementary Considerations Part 2 – Motivate the Elephant

Business mavens, Chip Heath and Dan Heath released their new book entitled, “Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard,” (Broadway, 2010) in February. The authors address change at the individual, organizational and societal level. Change involves the brain’s emotional and rational side. The Heath brothers identify the overpowering emotional factor as the Elephant.

The rational, decision-making component is secondary and sits atop the Elephant as the Rider. When conflict between the two exists, the Rider is inherently the underdog. To make lasting change, the Elephant and Rider need to unite. Also key is having a clearly defined Path. Following is the second article of three offering complementary considerations on each of the change triad’s components. Here, the focus is the emotional Elephant.

MOTIVATE THE ELEPHANT-Emotional, Instinctive, Instant Gratification.

Find the Feeling. Most business change initiatives begin by focusing on strategy, structure, culture, systems, etc. Behavioral change is most successful when it speaks to people’s feelings. It’s widely believed that most change happens in the order of ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE. Most change situations involve ambiguity and uncertainty. Doubt stalls the Elephant, and the Rider’s analytical prowess isn’t enough to overcome its reluctance. Most successful change efforts follow the SEE-FEEL-CHANGE sequence.

The authors describe a manufacturing manager eager to educate executives about the company’s poor purchasing habits. The organization was using 424 different kinds of factory gloves bought at varying costs. The manager could have made his case using an Excel spreadsheet. Instead, he dumped comprehensive glove samples, replete with price tags on the table’s center. When the leaders saw the waste, their emotional Elephant was motivated to make purchasing changes.

Shrink the Change. Starting an unpleasant task is always harder than continuing it. Produce changes small enough to make victory all but inevitable. For example, clean a disorganized room for five minutes a day. View small wins as milestones that are within reach. This applies to individuals and organizations. When you achieve early success you’re engineering hope, which is vital to a change effort. Hope is excellent Elephant fuel. Small successes can be powerful in helping people believe in themselves. Don’t look for the quick, big improvement. Instead, seek daily small advancements. That’s the way change happens and when it does, it lasts.

Grow Your People. Any new quest, even ones that are ultimately successful will involve failure. The Elephant hates to fail. To keep the Elephant motivated towards a long-term goal, create the expectation of failure, not in the destination itself, but during the journey. Your ability to live a “growth mindset,” vs. a “fixed mindset” impacts your success in life. Fixed mindsets tend to avoid challenges. Growth mindsets believe abilities are like muscles and can be built up with practice. They’re prone to accept more challenges despite the risks of failure. The business realm rejects the growth mindset. Instead it defines only two stages: plan and execute. Results are pivotal, with a learning or practice stage ignored. To create sustained change, embrace a growth mindset and instill it in your team. People will persevere only if they perceive falling down as learning vs. failing.

The authors acknowledge that change isn’t always easy. When change works it tends to follow a pattern. People will change with clear direction, ample motivation and a supportive environment. The Rider, Elephant and Path need to align in support of the switch. Visit the authors at http://www.heathbrothers.com.