Saturday, 11 August 2012

Switch - Book Review

Switch by Chip and Dan Heath sets out to explore how to manage change in both personal and professional contexts.
It is another one of those pop-management books in the style of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink and Tipping Point. Like Gladwell, the Heaths have a very simple concept which they illustrate drawing on real-life examples from a range of situations.
According to Switch there are three aspects to managing change. Throughout the authors use the analogy of riding an elephant to illustrate the difficulty of managing change: the rider can decide on a new direction but if the elephant doesn't want to go that way there is little that the rider can do. The key is making it easy for elephant to go in the direction that the rider wants it to go.
1. Direct the Rider (getting your head around change):
  • Follow the Bright Spots (find what's working in the organisation and clone it)
  • Script the Critical Moves (think in terms of small, simple, understandable, specific changes)
  • Point to the Destination (change is easier if everyone knows where they are going)
2. Motivate the Elephant (getting your heart around change):
  • Find the Feeling (make people in the organisation feel something
  • Shrink the Change (break down the change into manageable chunks)
  • Grow your People (create a sense of identity/community)
3. Shape the Path (making the direction of change easier):
  • Tweak the Environment (when the situation changes, behaviour changes)
  • Build Habits (look for ways to build good habits - make good behaviour habitual)
  • Rally the Herd (behaviour is contagious - help it spread)
Switch illustrates each of these nine areas with inspirational examples.
The section on "fixed" and "growth" mindsets (pp.163-168) summarising the work of Carol Dweck of Stamford University (Mindset) is excellent and has significant implications for education.
Dweck distinguishes between two types of mindset:
  • People who have a "fixed mindset" believe that their abilities are basically static.
  • People who have a "growth mindset" believe that their abilities are like muscles - they can be built up with practice.
Dweck's research demonstrated that two hours of training in how to think about intelligence made students demonstrably better a Maths. Dweck proved that the growth mindset can be taught and that it can change lives.
Overall this is an easy read. Like many books of its kind, it works a very simple concept to the limit and could have got the its message across in 20 pages, but there are some fun lines ("It is like tossing a fire extinguisher to someone who is drowning. The solution doesn't match the problem" p107) and lots of interesting anecdotes.

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