Recently, I finished reading Switch by Dan and Chip Heath, and I can truthfully say I loved every moment of this book.
The book focuses on the necessary elements to efficiently making a change in your individual or professional life or in your business or organization.
**Elephant, Rider, and Path**
Switch investigates successful change efforts by assigning metaphors to different areas of people's personalities as well as the setting that surrounds them.
The three-pronged analogy is borrowed from a book the authors read prior to writing Switch known as The Happiness Hypothesis by a psychologist named Jonathan Haidt (I havent read this book yet for myself, but its been added to my ever growing list of necessary reading!).
I could honestly go on forever on the subject of the details of this metaphor, because It is my opinion it's nothing short of brilliant, but Ill attempt to keep it to the point.
In essencewhat the metaphor describes is that our psyche is divided. On one hand you've got an Elephant, while on the other hand you have a Rider sitting on the Elephant's back - doing his best to control the Elephant's travels.
The hitch is the fact that the Elephant occasionally wants to go in a direction the Rider disagrees with, and since the Elephant is a lot larger than the small Rider, theres not a lot he can do about it he can only tug on the reigns for so long until the Elephant wears him down and does whatever it wants.
Examples in the book of the Elephants emotional tendencies include struggling to quit smoking, cheating on a weight loss program or saying something you dont really intend in a fit of anger.
Our Elephants represent action not deliberation or examination, just response to everything around us.
The "weakness" of the Elephant is that it relies on feelings, habits, and instincts that don't always coincide with the changes we are trying to make. Often times the Elephant - which is actually ourselves - needs assistance being persuaded to go with a less recognizable alternative.
The Riders job is to lead the Elephant down the right Path (the third part of the metaphor), even when that path is difficult to travel.
The Rider is the part of our mind that analyzes situations and looks to the future, instead of his immediate surroundings.
While the Elephant tends to act without thinking, the Rider has the opposite pattern - he tends to over think and over analyze everything.
The final component to Haidt and Heath's metaphor is the Path, used to describe the environment surrounding th changes we try to make in our lives. The Path can be used t represent peers, rules, laws - anything that has an impact on the change itself or the people involved in it.
Seeing The Metaphor In Action
Throughout Switch, Dan and Chip Heath demonstrate effective change with a simple, three part process based on the metaphor described above:
* Motivate the Elephant
* Direct the Rider
* Shape the Path
The book is broken into three sections based on these steps. Essentially, you need to get the Elephant moving, give the Rider a clear destination to travel in (preventing him from spinning his wheels) and shape the Path youre traveling on to eliminate or avoid obstacles.
There are, of course, finer points within each section, and the different chapters are broken down to illustrate these points.
As you read, the authors introduce you to wide variety of changes (and the people behind them) that they studied while writing this book. The changes in the book range from personal habits to corporate and national movements.
Why This Book Works So Well
Lets be honest the principles this book are based on arent the kind of thing that sounds exhilarating to everyone. In spite of that fact, the authors did a very good job of making it an extremely entertaining book to read.
Switch is written in such a well organized way that the different sections are not only entertaining but compliment each other extremely well - each chapter being reinforced by those that came before it.
There are also plenty of humorous asides scattered throughout the book, so it keeps the text from becoming mundane.
For a book filled with so many different stories, the authors are really good about outlining the similarities that illustrate the message of the book.
I guess what Im trying to say is that this book is loaded with moments that leave you thinking Yup. I totally do that
All in all, this a great read for anyone who has a habit they dont like, or something they think they need to improve in their life or their business (which I think covers pretty much all of us ;) )