Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

Same Seats!

Walking through the parking lot today I encounter group of students returning to their van from a school field trip.  From the back of the loosely formed pack I distinctly heard the shout, ‘same seats!’  Another student chimed in with a similar response and so it was decided by a voice vote that the motion for same seats carried.

The mentality of same seats is easy to embrace.  It preserves the known and controls the immediate future.  If I like my seat then I am lucky.  If I was neutral on my seating options then I am probably part of the silent majority.  Only the few who were slammed in the seat by the wheel well or next to a less than appreciated seatmate are the vocal minority. 

The ‘same seat’ flashback reminded me how young I was when I learned how to manage change.  How much of this elementary school organizing strategy has carried over to my work and that of enterprises I serve?  Do we literally sit in the same seats at board meetings?  I worked with one organization that placed a customized tea or coffee mug at each person’s seat prior to the meeting and it was clear where the power resided (just watch whose tea was brewed first).  Are meeting agendas as structured and preserved in tradition as the coronation ceremony for a monarch?  Does our budget look the same every year with just a few adjusted numbers?  Are the same faces tackling the same conversations?  Has our mission statement stayed the same since it is etched into stone?  Do we continue forward with the same programs because our founders established them?

I wonder how many causes carry forward with the ‘same seat’ mentality because it leads to a sense of certainty.  What if we yelled, ‘everyone off the bus’ and took stock of who and what we had on-board.  Happy travels. 

Looking for some innovative ways to manage change, check out the Heath brothers latest book, Switch.
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard


I just finished the book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath.  The concepts in the Heath’s book regarding managing and influencing change were as insightful as any resources I have encountered.  I was a big fan of their previous effort, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.  I am thrilled to incorporate key concepts and methods into my current strategic planning engagements.  The key framing around which the book centers involves the following analogy presented by Jonathan Haidt in his book, The Happiness Hypothesis.  Using Mr. Haidt’s foundation the Heath’s defined the three areas as the Rider, the Elephant, and the Path.  The Rider is the rational side, the Elephant represents the emotional side, and the Path is the route.  The Heath’s take the analogy and uncover remarkable examples of successful change and utterly disastrous models of failing to change.  Their case studies are enlightening and they offer a final section on how to overcome common obstacles.

If you are looking for a playbook on how to address or lead change, I see many applications for the social sector coming from the pages of Switch.  

Checkout the book’s website for great resources.