The Heath brothers walk through a systematic way to think about decision-making – influence the rider, elephant, and shape the path

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Key Takeaways

  1. You can see how easy it would be to turn an easy change problem (shrinking people’s buckets) into a hard change problem (convincing people to think differently). And that’s the first surprise about change: What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.
  2. Seek to change not only someone’s environment but their hearts and minds.
  3. If you want to change things, you’ve got to appeal to both. The Rider provides the planning and direction, and the Elephant provides the energy. So if you reach the Riders of your team but not the Elephants, team members will have understanding without motivation. If you reach their Elephants but not their Riders, they’ll have passion without direction. In both cases, the flaws can be paralyzing.
  4. If you want people to change, you must provide crystal-clear direction. What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. In short, to make a switch, you need to script the critical moves. This is what we mean by “scripting” the critical moves. Change begins at the level of individual decisions and behaviors, but that’s a hard place to start because that’s where the friction is. Inertia and decision paralysis will conspire to keep people doing things the old way. To spark movement in a new direction, you need to provide crystal-clear guidance. That’s why scripting is important—you’ve got to think about the specific behavior that you’d want to see in a tough moment, whether the tough moment takes place in a Brazilian railroad system or late at night in your own snack-loaded pantry.
  5. If you want people to change, you don’t ask them to “act healthier.” You say, “Next time you’re in the dairy aisle of the grocery store, reach for a jug of 1% milk instead of whole milk.”
  6. Direct the Rider. What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So provide crystal-clear direction. (Think 1% milk.) Motivate the Elephant. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. The Rider can’t get his way by force for very long. So it’s critical that you engage people’s emotional side—get their Elephants on the path and cooperative. (Think of the cookies and radishes study and the boardroom conference table full of gloves.) Shape the Path. What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. We call the situation (including the surrounding environment) the “Path.” When you shape the Path, you make change more likely, no matter what’s happening with the Rider and Elephant. (Think of the effect of shrinking movie popcorn buckets.)
  7. To change behavior, you’ve got to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path. If you can do all three at once, dramatic change can happen even if you don’t have lots of power or resources behind you.
  8. The mothers washed their hands with soap and cooked the meal together. Sternin said that the moms were “acting their way into a new way of thinking.” Most important, it was their change, something that arose from the local wisdom of the village. Sternin’s role was only to help them see that they could do it, that they could conquer malnutrition on their own. By organizing these cooking groups, Sternin was addressing both the Rider and the Elephant. The mothers’ Riders got highly specific instructions: Here’s how to cook a tasty lunch with shrimp and sweet-potato greens. And their Elephants got a feeling: hope. There really is a way to make my daughter healthier. And it’s not very hard—it’s something I can do! Notice that the Path played a role, too. When so many of the mothers were doing something, there was strong social pressure to go along. The cooking classes, in effect, were changing the culture of the village. Best of all, bright spots solve the “Not Invented Here” problem.
  9. Notice that Cade prods the couple for specifics: “What will you do instead?” “How could you tell the other person was really listening?” The Miracle Question doesn’t ask you to describe the miracle itself; it asks you to identify the tangible signs that the miracle happened.
  10. You are simply asking yourself, “What’s working and how can we do more of it?” That’s the bright-spot philosophy in a single question. You can also ask, “What’s broken, and how do we fix it?”
  11. If you are a manager, ask yourself: “What is the ratio of the time I spend solving problems to the time I spend scaling successes?”
  12. At the beginning of the school year, she announced a goal for her class that she knew would captivate every student: By the end of this school year, you’re going to be third graders. (Not literally, of course, but in the sense that they would be at third-grade skill levels.) That goal was tailor-made for the first-grade psyche. First graders know very well what third graders look like—they are bigger, smarter, and cooler. We’ve seen the importance of pursuing bright spots, and we’ve discussed ways of instructing the Rider how to behave, but we haven’t answered a very basic question: Where are we headed in the end? What’s the destination? Crystal Jones provided a great destination postcard: You’ll be third graders soon! Notice that the goal she set for her students didn’t only direct the Rider; it also motivated the Elephant. It was inspirational. It tapped into feeling.
  13. Destination postcards—pictures of a future that hard work can make possible—can be incredibly inspiring. The first graders dreamed of being third graders. Laura Esserman’s team imagined a new kind of breast care clinic that would cater to the needs of the patient.
  14. What is essential, though, is to marry your long-term goal with short-term critical moves.
  15. Kotter and Cohen observed that, in almost all successful change efforts, the sequence of change is not ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE, but rather SEE-FEEL-CHANGE.
  16. We can change behavior in a short television ad. We don’t do it with information. We do it with identity:
  17. People find it more motivating to be partly finished with a longer journey than to be at the starting gate of a shorter one. One way to motivate action, then, is to make people feel as though they’re already closer to the finish line than they might have thought.
  18. Shrink the change. Make the change small enough that they can’t help but score a victory.
  19. You want to select small wins that have two traits: (1) They’re meaningful. (2) They’re “within immediate reach
  20. The next time your team resolves to act in a new way, challenge team members to take it further. Have them specify when and where they’re going to put the plan in motion. Get them to set an action trigger.
  21. Change isn’t an event; it’s a process.

What I got out of it

  1. To change behavior, you’ve got to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path

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