The Best Quotes from “Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard”

Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It actually altered the way I think about personal “change.” I’d certainly recommend the book to anyone and to give you an idea of why that’s the case, I wanted to put together the best quotes from the book. Enjoy!

: We know what you’re thinking — people resist change. But it’s not quite that easy. Babies are born every day to parents who,:  : inexplicably, welcome the change. Think about the sheer magnitude of that change! Would anyone agree to work for a boss who’d wake you up twice a night, screaming, for trivial administrative duties? (And what if, every time you wore a new piece of clothing, the boss spit up on it?) Yet people don’t resist this massive change — they volunteer for it. — P.4

Now you’ve had a glimpse of the basic three-part framework we will unpack in this book, one that can guide you in any situation where you need to change behavior:

* Direct the Rider. What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So provide crystal-clear direction….

* Motivate the Elephant. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. The Rider can’t get his way by force for long. So it’s critical that you engage people’s emotional side — get their Elephants on the path and cooperative…

* Shape the Path. What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. We call the situation (including the surrounding environment) the “path.” When you shape the Path, you make change more likely, no matter what’s happening with the Rider and the Elephant…. — P.17-18

You can probably recall a conversation with a friend who agonized for hours over a particular relationship problem. But can:  you:  remember an instance when a friend spent even a few minutes analyzing why something was working so well? — P.33

To pursue bright spots is to ask the question “What’s working, and how can we do more of it?” — P.45

Scene 1: A gourmet food store. The store managers have set up a table where customers can sample imported jams for free. One day, the table showcases 6 different jams. Another day, 24 jams. As you’d expect, the 24-jams display attracts more customers to stop by for a sample — but when it comes time to buy, they can’t make a decision. Shoppers who saw only 6 jams on display are 10 times more likely to buy a jar of jam. — P.51

The status quo feels comfortable and steady because much of the choice has been squeezed out. You have your routines, your ways of doing things. For most of your day, the Rider is on autopilot. But in times of change, autopilot doesn’t work anymore, choices suddenly proliferate, and autopilot habits become unfamiliar decisions. When you’re on a diet, the habitual daily trip for Nachos Bell Grande is disqualified, and in its place is left a decision. When you’ve got a new manager, the way you communicate stops being second nature and starts being a choice.

Change brings new choices that create uncertainty. Let’s be clear: It’s not only options that yield decision paralysis — like picking one donut from 100 flavors. Ambiguity does, too. In times of change, you may not know what options are available. And this uncertainty leads to decision paralysis as surely as a table with 24 jams.

Ambiguity is exhausting to the Rider, because the Rider is tugging on the reins of the Elephant, trying to direct the Elephant down a new path. But when the road in uncertain, the Elephant will insist on taking the default path, the most familiar path…Why? Because uncertainty makes the Elephant anxious….And that’s why decision paralysis can be deadly for change — because the most familiar path is always the status quo. — P.52-53

The more instinctive a behavior becomes, the less self-control from the Rider it requires, and this the more sustainable it becomes. — P.65

To the Rider, a big problem calls for a big solution. But if you seek out a solution that’s as complex as the problem, …nothing will change. — P.71

To the Rider, the “analyzing” phase is often more satisfying than the “doing” phase, and that’s dangerous for your switch. — P.81

Kotter and Cohen observed that, in almost all successful change efforts, the sequence of change is not ANALYZE — THINK — CHANGE, but rather SEE-FEEL-CHANGE. You’re presented with evidence that makes you feel something. It might be a disturbing look at the problem, or a hopeful glimpse of the solution, or a sobering reflection of your current habits, but regardless, it’s something that hits you at the emotional level. It’s something that speaks to the Elephant. — P.106

But when people fail to change, it’s not usually because of not understanding the problem. — P.112

“In the absence of a dire threat, employees will keep doing what they’ve always done.” As a result, the professors emphasize the importance of crisis: “Turnaround leaders must convince people that the organization is truly on its deathbed — or, at the very least, that radical changes are required if the organization is to survive and thrive.” In other words, if necessary, we need to create a crisis to convince people they’re facing a catastrophe and have no choice but to move. — P.119

People find it more motivating to be partly finished with a longer journey than to be at the starting gate of a shorter one. — P.127

A business cliche commands us to “raise the bar.” But that’s exactly the wrong instinct if you want to motivate a reluctant Elephant. You need to lower the bar. Picture taking a high-jump bar and lowering it so far that it can be stepped over. If you want a reluctant Elephant to get moving, you need to shrink the change. — P.129

Former UCLA coach John Wooden, one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time, once said, “When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur…Don’t look for the quick, big improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens — and when it happens, it lasts.” — P.144

You want to select small wins that have two traits: (1) They’re meaningful. (2) They’re “within immediate reach,” as Bill Parcells said. And if you can’t achieve both traits, choose the latter! — P.145

It’s a theme we’ve seen again and again — big changes come from a succession of small changes. It’s OK if the first changes seem almost trivial. The challenge is to get the Elephant moving, even if the movement is slow at first. — P.147

So the question is this: How can you make your changes a matter of identity rather than a matter of consequences? — P.154

Leaving aside the sleaze factor, the science of the billboard study says something pretty remarkable. It shows us that people are receptive to developing new identities, that identities “grow” from small beginnings. Once you start seeing yourself as a “concerned citizen,” you’ll want to keep acting like one. That’s tremendously good news for someone leading a change effort. — P.161

What looks like a person problem is often a situation problem. — P.180

We are frequently blind to the power of situations. In a famous article, Stanford psychologist Lee Ross surveyed dozens of studies in psychology and noted that people have a systematic tendency to ignore situational forces that shape other people’s behavior. He called this deep-rooted tendency the “Fundamental Attribution Error.” The error lies in our inclination to attribute people’s behavior to the way they are rather than to the situation they are in. — P.180

If you want people to change, you can provide clear direction (Rider) or boost their motivation and determination (Elephant). Alternately, you can simply make the journey easier. Create a steep downhill slope and give them a push. Remove their friction from the trail. Scatter around lots of signs to tell them they’re getting close. In short, you can shape the path. — P.181

Tweaking the environment is about making the right behavior a little easier and the wrong behaviors a little harder. It’s that simple. — P.183

Why are habits so important? They are, in essence, behavioral autopilot. They allow lots of good behaviors to happen without the Rider taking charge. Remember that the Rider’s self-control is exhaustible, so it’s a huge plus if some positive things can happen “free” on autopilot.

To change yourself or other people, you’ve got to change habits, and what we see with Romano is that his habits shifted when his environment shifted. This makes sense — our habits are essentially stitched into our environment. Research bears this out. According to one study of people making changes in their lives, 36 percent of the successful changes were associated with a move to a new location, and only 13 percent of unsuccessful changes involved a move. — P.208

Dropping off Anna at school triggers the next action, going to the gym. There’s no cycle of conscious deliberation. By preloading the decision, we conserve the Rider’s self-control. — P.210

How can something so simple be so powerful? Checklists educate people about what’s best, showing them the ironclad right way to do something. (That means checklists are effective at directing the Rider.) AS Dr. Pronovost said, his five steps were black and white, backed by solid medical research. You ignore the checklist, but you couldn’t dispute it. — P.221

Also, cognitive dissonance works in your favor. People don’t like to act in one way and think in another. So once a small step has been taken, and people have begun to act in a new way, it will be increasingly difficult for them to dislike the way they’re acting. Similarly, as people begin : to act differently, they’ll start to think of themselves differently, and as their identity evolves, it will reinforce the new way of doing things. — P.255

When change works, it tends to follow a pattern. The people who change have clear direction, ample : motivation, and a supportive environment. In other words, when change works, it’s because the Rider, the Elephant, and the Path are all aligned in support of the switch. — P.255

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