Today is the first of the month and on the first day of each month we review the book of the month.
The book this month is by two of my favourite authors. Chip and Dan Heath are two brothers who are both university professors. One is at Stanford and the other is at Duke University. Together they have written multiple best selling books including Made to Stick and Decisive.
Our book this month is called Switch.
The book is dedicated to answering the question of how to change things when change is hard. The mind is governed by two different systems, the rational mind and the emotional mind. The rational mind wants that great beach body and the emotional mind wants that OREO cookie.
But this book is different than what you might be expecting. It examines change at the individual level, the organizational level and at a societal level.
The book is well researched and shows the path through stories and examples.
It doesn’t preach at you, but rather guides you to solutions that you discover yourself.
One of the central concepts of the book is the notion of bright lights. Bright lights are those shining examples of success that you can copy. The concept of a mentor who has walked the path before you is one possible bright light. But there are many others. One of the best and most powerful bright lights can in fact be your own experience. You could have a shining example of something that worked well in your past. That shining example can be a beacon of light for you to replicate that success, perhaps with a minor adaptation suited to the current circumstance.
In the book Switch, the authors share the story of how Robyn Waters a merchant buyer with little to no authority transformed Target from a lagging department store that low cost copied Walmart and Kmart, to a fashion leader. Robyn understood that she had no authority. If she was to transform the way purchasing decisions were made, she had to tap into the buyer’s emotional drive. The company culture was completely data driven. Sales of last years fashion products were used to determine purchasing decisions this year. By definition, the company would always be a fashion laggard. Their process was overwhelmingly Analyze – Think – Change. She transformed the culture into a See-Feel-Change decision making that was supported by the analytical approach. Early wins would be measured to make faster decisions on how to procure new products.
When the organization is so large and so heavy with momentum, change often seems impossible.
We often rush to judgement about people. Someone who inherently is a good driver, can become a bad driver if you put them in a traffic jam, 20 minutes behind schedule to catch a flight for a family vacation. They aren’t a bad driver per se. But the environment created the bad driver. It’s too easy to focus on the driver and make the driver the problem. But often the root cause is the environment. If you want to change the outcome, you could try changing the driver. But it might be more effective to change the environment.
One of the core concepts in the book is that the emotional side of the mind is a six ton elephant. The logical side of the mind is the rider. The rider attempts to steer the elephant by issuing commands and pulling on the reigns. But if there is a disagreement between the rider and the elephant, there’s little question as to which one will win.
If you simply convince people logically, they will agree with you. You will have direction, but without motivation.
That is the key insight. Your head and your heart must be in alignment.