Bright Spots for Building Change — Book Review of Switch

What I love the most about the book “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” is how it gets my creative juices flowing. The book opened the flood gates to think creatively and even more how to facilitate positive change. When I read a book I have 3×5 cards nearby as I read. The 1st card is for capturing page numbers of illustrations, quotes, stories that I want to file away.  Additional cards are for ideas, actions and thoughts to pass on to others. For some books it stops at one card. Not this book. With this book I filled up that first card, and then a whole lot more as creative ideas popped up about next steps to take.

The book builds on this premise: Successful changes has a common pattern, and what may surprise you — an identifiable  pattern of 3 simple steps:

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

1. Direct the Rider: Get your brain engaged. Find the bright spots (my favorite concept in the book) and script the moves that get you to your intended destination. Know where you are going and lay out the map.

2. Motivate the Elephant: Feelings are fickle, aren’t they? You want to lose weight, you know you should, but an opportunity at a chocolate doughnut usually beats a chance at following the diet every time. Motivate the elephant deals with those heart issues that often trump where the brain wants to go.

3. Shape the Path: If you can make that path downhill, you will make the road easier as momentum builds. We did this with our new member process. Getting the necessary forms was the least pleasant activity of our new membership process, and often took the longest to accomplish. We started filling out the forms with as much information as we had on record. Result was quicker return, less frustration. We shaped the path. We learned to make a switch and everyone won.

My favorite chapter in the book is Chapter 2:  Find the bright spots. Most organization focus, almost obsessively with what’s wrong. Bright spots change the focus to not only what’s going right, but why is it going right. Learn the lesson, magnify the impact.

Chip and Dan Heath in this chapter tell the story of Jerry Sternin who in 1990 worked for Save the Children. They send him to Vietnam, give him 6 months and no budget, to “make a difference” in the nutrition issues they battle. For most people the approach is to first identify the problems. In most cases, that’s the common step. Identify the problem.

Sternin instead traveled to rural villages and sought mothers whose children were healthiest based on weighing them and comparing the results. He then looked at what these mom with the healthiest children did. He found his “bright spots” and transformed the nutrition of the entire village. Turned out the difference was not the amount of food (it was the same for both groups), but how often they ate. The healthiest children ate 4 meals instead of 2. That simple switch improved nutrition in the village. Adding a little protein to the diet, helped even more.

I now look for bright spots. What’s working and how can I get that to work for me? Henry Blackaby calls that looking for what God is blessing. A different approach than those who obsess with what’s wrong. If you had a choice, would you rather spend time on what God is blessing or what Satan is cursing?

Check the book out for yourself. Go to then download the Switch Framework and Chapter 1. You’ll be hooked. Just keep a stack of 3×5 cards nearby for all those creative ideas. Let me know what you discover to switch.

Switch gets my creativity going. So did the Heath brothers, first book, “Made to Stick.” What book gets your creativity going?



Filed under Leadership Book Reviews

4 responses to “Bright Spots for Building Change — Book Review of Switch

  1. Great post, Richard. I read “Made to Stick” and loved the book. It was so practical.

    As for creativity, I read a lot of writer-focused books–current read, “Getting into Character” by Brandilyn Collins. She has wonderful examples and great suggestions that sharpen my creativity as much as energizes my creative juices.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I have never read a book on developing characters, sounds like a good help in learning to write and a new way to think. Both prove to keys for me in becoming more creative.

  2. I’ll have to add this to my queue. Another good book on this subject is “The 7 Levels of Change: Different Thinking for Different Results” by Rolf Smith.

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