While change is hard, Chip Heath pointed out that people undergo major life changes all the time, and even like it (his examples were marriage and having kids).
Human decision making is like a tiny rider on a massive elephant. The rider may think he’s in charge, but the elephant’s will always wins. Both are imperfect – the rider over-thinks and over-analyzes. The elephant acts on passion and emotion. Heath’s advice for causing change was three-pronged:
- Direct the rider
- Motivate the elephant
- Shape the path
1) Direct the rider:
Humans obsess about problems to a fault and spend very little time analyzing what’s right, say, in a relationship. Heath explained how focusing on bright spots rather than issues can be transformational. Let’s study what’s working and do more of that. He gave an example of Donald Berwick at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement who aimed to save 100,000 lives by a certain date, and exceeded his goal simply by looking at what medical practices worked and spreading them across healthcare facilities.
2) Motivate the elephant:
People are emotional and often react better to a good story than heaps of data. Tell a story and allow your listeners to draw their own conclusions (which ideally match up with yours). In a vivid example, Heath described a procurement officer who wanted to overhaul his company’s supply chain for greater efficiency. Rather than say that, or bombard his team with data on the problem, he chose one item — gloves worn by the manufacturing team — and noticed that the company purchased 424 kinds of gloves. He got one of each and placed them in a mound on the conference table and then invited his team in. Without saying a word, they began to proclaim “This is crazy! We can fix this so easily!” — which was exactly what the procurement officer wanted to do. He invited his colleagues to see, feel, and then change the problem.
Interestingly, Heath pointed out that the environmental movement has got us all saying, “This is crazy!” but no one is quite at the point of saying, “And we can fix it!” And that’s a problem.