altSwitch:  How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (Broadway Books, 2010)

You don't get lots of snippet quotes in this review, because I had to read the book quickly; it was a gift for my son-in-law.  I love his Amazon wish list:  I look it over, pick out a book I want to read, order it, read it, and give it to him.  :)  But my timing wasn't as good this time as it could have been.

Instead, you get a hearty endorsement of Switch.  I'm not sure the Heath brothers have everything right, but they sure have a lot of great ideas that I plan to take more time to consider.  Our library has two copies on order, and maybe my library book sale maven sister-in-law will come upon a used copy before I get around to ordering it myself.  :)

Here's a link to the authors' site, where you can check out some free resources, and read the first chapter of Switch.  Unfortunately, the first chapter doesn' t include one of my favorite stories, that of how a humanitarian organization that made an (almost) immediate, life-saving change to children's nutrition in Vietnam.  But you can read that story here.

Finally, here's a summery from the book.  It won't make much sense until after you've read it, but I'm putting it here as a handy reference for myself, and for anyone else who would appreciate it.


Follow the Bright Spots. Investigate what's working and clone it. [Jerry Sternin in Vietnam, solutions-focused therapy]

Script the Critial Moves. Don't think big picture, think in terms of specific behaviors. [1% milk, four rules at the Brazilian railroad]

Point to the Destination. Change is easier when you know where you're going and why it's worth it. [“You'll be third graders soon,” “No dry holes” at BP]


Find the Feeling. Knowing something isn't enough to cause change. Make people feel something. [Piling gloves on the table, the chemotherapy video game, Robyn Waters's demos at Target]

Shrink the Change. Break down the change until it no longer spooks the Elephant. [The 5-Minute Room Rescue, procurement reform]

Grow Your People. Cultivate a sense of identity and instil the growth mindset [Brasilata's “inventors,” junior-high math kids' turnaround]


Tweak the environment. When the situation changes, the behavior changes. So change the situation. [Throwing out the phone system at Rackspace, 1-Click ordering, simplifying the online time sheet]

Built Habits. When behavior is habitual, it's “Free”--it doesn't take the Rider. Look for ways to encourage habits. [Setting “action trigger,” eating two bowls of soup while dieting, using checklists]

Rally the Herd. Behavior is contagious. Help it spread. [“Fataki” in Tanzania, “free spaces” in hospitals, seeding the tip jar]

UPDATE:  Here's a link to more good points from Switch

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 10:35 am | Edit
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Picked up a copy at the library today.

Posted by dstb on Monday, June 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I took the time to read the chapter and it was very interesting. Your sister-in-law may find the book, but you will have to wait for me to read it first.

Posted by dstb on Monday, June 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Let us know what you think of the book when you've read it.

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, June 29, 2012 at 11:48 am
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