Saturday, January 30, 2010

Authentic Endorsement 2 - Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

This is most likely my most anticipated post of the year so far.

You see, I've had the pre-release galley (yeah - even love the terminology) of this book since September. It clearly states on the cover, "Please Do Not Quote, Blog or Review until January 1, 2010"

I have been exercising TREMENDOUS self-control to keep it under raps so long. I read it once back then and read it again over the last month in prep for this post.

First of all, I have to say that I was not super familiar with Chip and Dan Heath before I saw them at the Leadership Summit (hosted by the Willowcreek Association) 2009 last August. As a marketer, I'd heard about their bestseller "Made to Stick" but had never gotten around to reading it. Their session at the Summit was so good, entitled "Switch" and captivated me from start to finish, even as a right after lunch offering.

From the first page - I was hooked on this practical guide on what fuels change in many different situations. Since I am personally embarking on a change mission - this was like a one-on-one lesson for me designed precisely for this point in my life. The concepts that the Heath brothers teach are as intuitive as they are easy to explain and grasp. The connection between our emotional selves (Elephant) our rational selves (Rider) and harnessing them to reach a common goal is clearly something we all can relate to - no matter what we are attempting to change. The piece that I'd never seen expressed so clearly before which is, quite frankly the best part of the equation that the Heath brothers observed and teach about - the concept of the Path.

As a change agent by DNA - this resonated with me instantly. I could easily look back over the course of my life and all the change I'd led and could see where I'd "motivated the Elephant," "directed the Rider" while simultaneously "shaping the Path" to the change . Over and over in this book, you read about clear opportunities for change and each situation had the same three pieces of the equation working regardless of budget, timing or who was leading the change. That's powerful.

My favorite story of change was one I'd heard them share at the Summit and was in Chapter 2 of the book - the story of Jerry Sternin who worked for Save the Children in Vietnam in 1990. In an effort to understand and fight malnutrition in Vietnam, Jerry did a very basic yet often missed technique to impart change - he found a bright spot and capitalized on it. With little to no budget to help fight malnutrition and no Vietnamese language skills - Jerry observed how some children in one remote village were healthier than others. Most all Vietnamese families in this village had the same amount and type of food to eat - rice, shrimp, crab. Most fed their kids two times a day. The "conventional wisdom" among this group was that shrimp and crab were for adults and not really "appropriate" for kids. Additionally, there were sweet potato greens available but they were considered "low class" food.

When Jerry observed how the healthier kids were fed versus the others - he found a clear bright spot. The mothers whose kids were healthier - served their kids four meals a day (using the same amount of food as the other moms just rationing it differently). They also added tiny shrimp, crab and sweet potato greens to each serving. Sternin was amazed and right away had an answer to fighting malnutrition by enabling these model families to teach the others how to help their fellow villagers. There is so much more to this story - you'll have to read it but think about change in your own life for a minute... How often do we concentrate on wanting to change what's not right vs building on what is? Heck - we struggle to even ACKNOWLEDGE the good in most situations. This is just one of many practical applications that you will find throughout the 296 page book.

Most people will devour this in one sitting. As a working mom with many outside interests it took me a few weeks but it is written so well that either way - you will learn and retain the concepts and start applying them immediately.

The book will be on shelves on Feb 16, 2010 and I know at least Dan is doing a book tour to promote it - I am trying to work out seeing him when he breezes thru Chicago this spring. Go get this book. Even if the only change you are considering is personal. I am certain you will be "changed" after you read it.

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