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Over the last few years, I have read a number of books and listened to many teachings on change. A few of the books that I have perused include Relaunch, Leading Change Without Losing, and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. I learned quite a bit from these titles, especially those that were timely for what was going on in my life.

Most recently, I finished another book on change titled Switch: How To Change Things When Change is Hard. In this book Chip and Dan Heath lay out a framework to help make hard change a little easier. They grabbed the phrase of the first two from The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt.

1. Direct the Rider.

The rider is the rational part of you. Your rider is good with thinking and planning and can, therefore, plot a course for a better future.

The challenge with the rider is that he can also see all the problems in a situation. Because of this, he can get bogged down in analysis paralysis. To help with change, we are told that you must direct the rider. This is done by scripting the critical moves and pointing to the destination.

Scripting the critical moves are giving your rider specific behaviors that need to be done. In one of the stories, they shared that someone was trying to help raise the safety level in an automotive plant. So, instead of simply saying, “stay safe,” which leaves a lot of room for interpretation, they made two clear directives: 1) everyone is required to wear hardhats and safety glasses, and 2) no one can expose any bare skin, meaning no one can wear shorts or short-sleeved shirts, etc.

Pointing to the destination means reaching the desired outcome. It could also be called your goal. For the automotive plant that would be every single person wearing the safety equipment and wearing the proper attire. This made it very easy to see when the destination was reached.

2. Motivate the Elephant

The elephant is the emotional side of you. Your elephant is the part of you that is more likely to make a decision based on feelings. In order to get your elephant to change we are encouraged to find the feeling, shrink the change, and grow your people.

In their book Dan and Chip relate some findings from John Kotter and Dan Cohen’s book Heart of Change:

Kotter and Cohen say that most people think change happens in this order: ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE… in almost all successful change efforts, the sequence of change is not ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE, but rather SEE-FEEL-CHANGE.

So instead of trying to present evidence that caused them to think (analyze) about something, present evidence that causes them to feel something.

Sometimes when we go out to make changes, the amount of work needed to accomplish the needed change seems overwhelming. This is where shrinking the change comes into play. In the book, they mention the Five-Minute Room Rescue. Instead of telling your child they have to clean the whole room, you tell them to clean for five minutes. Once the person starts to clean the room, there is a better chance that they will work longer than the five minutes, but you made the start much easier by shrinking the change.

By growing your people, you help your team to have a growth mindset. By doing this you potentially help people change the way they identify themselves. In one company they started to call their team members inventors, and over time the people started to come up with amazing ideas to move the company forward.

3. Shape the path.

If you don’t want to direct the rider or motivate the elephant, there is a third alternative; shape the path. To shape the path you can tweak the environment, build habits, and rally the herd.

Sometimes shaping the path by tweaking the environment is a less painstaking way to get the desired result. Think about grocery stores. They want you to stay in their stores for a longer period of time because that could result in more sales. So what do they do? They put the milk in the back of the store, so you have to pass through a larger portion of their goods.

The second thing you can do to shape the path is to build habits. I will let the writers of the book speak on this:

How can you create a habit that supports the change you’re trying to make? There are only two things to think about: 1) the habit needs to advance the mission, and 2) the habit needs to be relatively easy to embrace.

The final thing needed to shape the path is rallying the herd. Behavior can be contagious. There are YouTube videos where people are sitting in a room and all of a sudden a noise goes off and everyone in the room stands. Then the person who just came in the room would eventually stand, following the behaviors of the others. They, in turn, would encourage the next new person to do the same. If you can get a few people to start with change, it can catch on to others.

I am not sure what change you need right now, but it is easier if you direct the rider, motivate the elephant, or shape the path.

How have you seen these principles play out in your own life?

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