7 simple secrets to “Switch” to green

Change does not come easily to us, as a species. We are hard-wired to prefer the status quo, to drag our feet or over-analyze to the point of paralysis when changes are proposed. Fortunately, a new book addresses this in an engaging and enlightening manner: “Switch: how to change things when change is hard,” by Dan and Chip Heath. (Get the book here.) I’ve pulled out seven secrets from this book to help you to design a smooth transition to a greener business.

1. Use a metaphor to understand the three parts to effective change. Using vivid examples, the authors illustrate the story of the rider and the elephant. The rider is our rational brain; the elephant is our emotions. Both are actively functioning in us; the trick is to engage them each in ways they understand.

• The rider – avoid analysis paralysis by providing specific instructions and direction
• The elephant – give people an emotional hook to instill hope and motivation
• The path – change the circumstances or environment, such as by using social pressure

2. Direct the rider. Find, study, and replicate the “bright spots.” Look around and notice who is having success, how are they doing it, and get others to do that too. We tend to focus on what’s wrong or what’s broken and how do we fix it. Bright spots shift our focus instead to what’s working right now and how can we do more of it. That’s tremendously motivating for the elephant.

Ask these Bright Spot questions:

• What is working?
• How can we do more of that?

3. Script the critical moves. It’s not enough to ask your team to “be more green” or “waste less.” If you are leading a change effort, you need to remove the ambiguity from your vision of change. Ladder your way down from a change idea to a specific action.

4. Point to the destination. There is no way to orchestrate an entire change process from Day 1 to the desired result. Instead, send your team a “destination postcard” that vividly describes the end-goal and appeals to them emotionally. Then, script the critical moves to get them started off on the right foot. This helps the rider to translate aspirations into actions. If you have the beginning and the end well-defined, the middle part will evolve organically.

5. Go after behavior. Everyone who is trying to effect change sets goals. The more successful change transformations set behavioral goals. For instance, project teams will meet once a week and each team will include at least one representative of every functional area.

6. Behavior first, then mindset shift. Contrary to popular belief, knowledge does NOT change behavior. You have to practice the new behavior, to act your way into a new way of thinking. Knowing is NOT ENOUGH. Also, be aware that some information is “TBU”: True, But Useless.

7. Find the small tweaks. We think of big, systemic change as having to be long and arduous. Counter-intuitively, small adjustments can work miracles, as anyone who has ever tinkered with their golf swing can attest. This book has example after example to illustrate that big problems are NOT best solved with big, systemic solutions. They are often solved with many small solutions, unrolled over time.

Reading “Switch” has crystallized much of my recent thinking into a powerful framework for change. Let me know when you try out some of these strategies, what the results are for you. I’d love to hear your story.

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  1. Haven’t read Switch yet, but I’ve read other of their books. Very bright, creative thinkers, good at crystallizing changes happening around them.

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