52 Books: Switch by Chip & Dan Heath

I bought this book after Martha Beck (you know I love her, right?) recommended it here.

I wasn’t sure how I’d get on with it, but I actually found it fascinating. It’s really aimed at businesses – or, I suppose, managers of businesses: it’s about problem solving, getting people to do things they don’t want to do or can’t be bothered to do. (That makes it sound sinister, but it really isn’t – it’s getting them to do good things, honest.) I read it primarily as manager of, you know, myself and then, as I was reading, realised lots of it could easily apply to managing my family too.

The thing I loved the most about it was the idea of the elephant and the rider:

Human decision making is like a tiny rider on a massive elephant.  The rider may think he’s in charge, but the elephant’s will always wins. Both are imperfect – the rider over-thinks and over-analyzes.  The elephant acts on passion and emotion. 

That totally resonates with me as the rider sits here telling me to get on with writing this, while my elephant tries to drag me into the kitchen for another doughnut.

So what can you do about it? Lots of things. You can read a summary of it here but that glosses over ‘bright spots’ which I think is one of the best ideas in the book. If you’re struggling with something, you think about what’s worked in the past, work out why and replicate that. So, say, if I was struggling to get on and finish a book (to pick a random example out of thin air *cough*) I could think about how I managed to finish writing Jessie. Maybe I went to Starbucks and made myself stay there until I was finished. And I could try that again and see if it worked. I know, it seems blindingly obvious, but sometimes, when you’re flailing (when I’m flailing…) you miss the obvious things.

In fact, all the steps are pretty simple and there’s even a one-page summary at the back of the book that I’m going to stick on the wall next to my desk. But I’m so glad I read the whole book – the real world examples are so interesting and inspiring – and I’m keen to read the Heaths’ next book, Made to Stick.

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