I’ve been reading quite a bit about behaviour change over the past few months, partly because I think it’s an interesting investment area but also just out of personal interest and wanting to improve my own health and productivity. Lily suggested I read Switch by Chip and Dan Heath which is great and I definitely recommend it.

The book’s a couple of years old now so I’d heard quite a few of the examples already but the basic framework of the book was new to me. It’s all set up with a slightly cheesy analogy but one which works I think — that any person’s behaviour is a function of both head and heart, or as the Heaths put it a rider and and an elephant.

The book is then split into the three things that you need to get right in order to get both rider and elephant where you want them. These are:

  • Direct the rider: set clear, easy to follow instructions to be acted upon
  • Motivate the elephant: help people feel good about the eventual goal
  • Shape the path: make the environment as conducive as possible to positive behaviour

Get any of those pieces wrong and not a lot will happen. I nodded along to most of the book, seeing things that I’ve done in various situations that didn’t cover off all three principles and hence went wrong or just fizzled out. It gave me a lot of ideas about how I could improve my own ability to get things done both personally and at work. It also gives you some insight into how these techniques are used in marketing and advertising — not always to make the world a better place it has to be said.

To be honest I did find The Power of Habit more interesting from a science point of view and the storytelling meant it felt better written but nevertheless, if you’re interested in changing behaviour in any context, Switch is well worth a read.

Photo Some rights reserved by brendonhatcher.

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