Book review: Switch – how to change things when change is hard

The day had not gone as expected and I found myself in Frankfurt airport, on my way to London, half trying to understand what had happened and half just wanting to put the day behind.

As I passed the news stand I decided to go inside and see what magazine I could pick up to clear my mind. Across from the business magazines stand stood the small English books section with lots of titles by Malcolm Gladwell (have you noticed that he is one of the authors whose books in the original language seem to be always available in European airports?), very few other titles that I can’t even recall, and a blue cover book with the title highlighted in red: Switch – how to change things when change is hard.

Oh the irony”, I thought to myself. I picked it up, read the synopsis on the back cover, noticed the “New York Times bestseller” reference, and thought it was reasonable priced. That’s how I ended up buying this book: in a gloomy moment with serendipity deciding to knock on my door.

Since then I’ve come across several recommendations for Switch from several different sources, including some of my Twitter connections.

The tweetable summary would be something like:

Change is hard but becomes easier once you understand how to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant & shape the Path.

And here comes the nutshell recommendation: this is one amazing book about change! It really makes you reconsider how you approach change, be it going on a diet, quit smoking, modifying the behaviour of restless school kids or the way a company buys protection gloves, or saving parrots (you really gotta read the book to understand what I’m talking about).

In short , the Rider is our rational side, the Elephant is our emotional side and the Path is the situation/environment that surrounds us.

If you want to change something you might need to direct the Rider (because “what looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity”), motivate the Elephant (because “what looks like laziness is often exhaustion”) and shape the Path (because “what looks like a people problem is often a situation problem”).

The book emphasizes that change is a process so it requires persistence. And ends with a confident statement:

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.

Definitely worth reading, either you are planning small or big changes in your life and/or work. And I’ll use the key elements of my motto to sum this book:

The art of changing life requires ignition and work


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