Tag Archives: switch

never too good to revise

Switch booksA friend and I are working our way through Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. We meet most weeks. We talk. I blog.

We both have preview copies. His, the one on the left in the picture, is a “pre-release galley,” distributed at a conference with a promise of the final copy. Mine is an “uncorrected proof,” sent to bloggers and others.

Twice so far (through chapter five), I’ve been reading ahead of him and have said, “this story is a key story.” I’ve told him about these stories (and the principles they illustrate). I’ve told other people about them. I’ve had my thinking shaped by them. These two stories are huge.

And twice Chuck has said, “I don’t have that story.”

In his “pre-release galley”, the principles are taught, but these two stories the Heath brothers used are far less vivid. There is something about the story of chocolate chip cookies and radishes, and the story of Attila the Accountant that are memorable, tellable. Sometime in the last round of revisions, after the book was already being passed around to other people, these guys made it better.

Here’s the lesson for me: you are never too good to revise what you write.

I love to finish a draft of a post and hit publish. I don’t like the idea of rereading, of revising, of throwing something away and finding something even better. And then I think of two guys who write as well, who sell as well, as the Heaths, and I think “I’ll bet they never have to revise.”

And now I have this proof that they do revise. And that it makes things better.

Bother. I’m going to have to switch.


Looking for 1% milk

A couple of researchers wanted people to eat healthy. After they looked at all the things they could do, they decided to encourage people in two towns in West Virginia to buy 1% or skim milk instead of whole milk.

According to Chip and Dan Heath, who tell the story in Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, the two researchers built a media campaign around that simple change. They showed that one glass of whole milk has the same amount of saturated fat as five strips of bacon. They showed the amount of fat in other ways. And they said, “Buy lowfat milk.”

Before the campaign, less than one in five gallons of milk people bought was lowfat. After the campaign? More than two in five.

I love that story. But I have to work to understand how it works for me.

These two researchers were working with physical formation, helping people be more healthy physically. My day job is working with spiritual formation, helping people be more healthy spiritually. More particularly, I look at the kind of spiritual health that comes from living alongside Jesus. (It’s what I write about all the time at 300WordsaDay.com).

And I’m wondering what the 1% milk is in spiritual formation?

Every church seems to start at a different place. There are so many places to start, so many questions, so many aspects of spiritual health. Do you start with sin, with confession, with Bible reading, with meditation, with conversion, with evangelism, with prayer, with going to church, with giving, with baptism, with eating, with not eating, with stopping x,y, or z, with starting a,b,or c, with staying away from, with going to?

It all is so complicated. It’s no wonder that people who look at church people and rules and fussiness throw their hands in the air and walk away.

So is there a place to start with spiritual formation that works like 1% milk?

Let’s go back to the milk story for a moment.

If I were a health fanatic, I would get very frustrated with the 1% milk campaign. Changing the milk you buy doesn’t address the lack of exercise in American lives. It doesn’t add vegetables to our plates. It doesn’t talk at all about making good choices or getting plenty of rest.

Those are important concerns. But most people trying to bring about change start with the wholistic, with the massive, with the complete and complex. And in the process, people get confused about which and how many vitamins, about which and how often exercise, about which and how much food groups.

And while we are spending time trying to figure out how to help people understand what it means to be healthy and how to change our lifestyles and all, one fifth of the people in two towns in West Virginia are not putting 5 strips of bacon in every glass of milk.

Rather than starting complicated in spiritual health, what if there were a clear and simple step, one endorsed by Jesus?

Here’s what I’m thinking right now. I’m thinking that the 1% milk for spiritual formation is hanging drywall in Gulfport, Mississippi. (Okay, that and reading 300wordsaday.com.)

Stay tuned.

do something concrete.

Yesterday a friend said to me,

“I’m busy. I’m gone all day and it takes an hour each way to get to work. But I’d like to do something that’s ministry.”

Ministry is a church word. It means that a person wants to do something around church, related to church. It usually means being a Sunday school teacher or being an usher or shoveling the driveway or being on a committee.

I don’t like that meaning. I like to push people out of the building, help them work in lives.

I said, “What delights you? What do you love to do?”

“Sleep,” my friend said, smiling. She’s got good reason. She works hard and has much on her heart.

“If we ever start a nap ministry, I’ll call you,” I said. “Do you like to send cards?”

“I used to.”

“Send cards to two people this week and then ask me the question again next week.”

We agreed on two names of people who could benefit from her touch and I walked away.

In the past I would have said, “let me think about it and get back to you.” In the past I would have said, “let’s look at a brochure.” In the past I would have taken the burden of involvement on my shoulders.

But the most important thing for her to do is to actually do something. This week. That will help someone else. In her timeframe.

I think that having written about Switch the day before helped. Scripting the critical moves in this case meant helping my friend move from a vague “I want to do something” to “here’s what I can do this week.”

Make it clear. Make it simple. Make it doable.

Then help someone do something.


Also see Put it on the list

Script the critical moves

We’re a month into 2010 and we’re drowning.

We had wonderful things we wanted to accomplish, goals we set, 3 words we listed. And now, five weeks later, we’re wondering what happened.

  • Wanting change is easy.
  • Changing is hard.
  • Listing options for change is easy.
  • Picking one is hard.
  • Getting lost in the details of a solution is easy.
  • Picking just one thing to do that will make a difference is hard.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath recognize just how hard that is. In the third chapter of Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, they tell us that having too many options paralyzes us into continuing with how we do things already. (I’m blogging through conversations about this book. Here’s my post on chapter two: finding bright spots.)

The solution?

In this chapter, it’s to script the critical moves. Because options and ambiguity confuse people, the Heaths say, if you want to help people change, clearly identify what you want people to do.

They look at research among doctors, grocery stores, abusive parents, a Brazilian railroad, and kids in a small town in South Dakota.  Throughout those stories, they show us that “clarity dissolves resistance.”

Over and over we ask people to change, we tell people to change, we encourage people to change, but we don’t carefully identify a simple clear step to change. And our brains get confused.

Be healthy.

Develop networks.

Love God.

And then when people ask how, when we ask ourselves how, we have huge lists.

water glassEat better. (More coffee, less coffee,  more carbs, no carbs, more meat, less meat, more fats, less fats, the right kind of fats). Drink more water. Exercise. (how many times a day? What muscle groups? What are muscle groups? How far? How fast? Who is right?).

No wonder so many of us give up in frustration.

I’m working on the health thing this year as part of my 3 words. I wanted something simple to start.

So one of my approaches this year is to drink three extra glasses of water. Some days I even line them up on my desk.

Three glasses.

I’ve got a couple of other projects I’m working on now, projects that involve helping people to change. This concept, “scripting the critical moves”, is changing how I’m thinking about them. It demands way more reflection and conversation and clarification and time.

But what if it works?



Above and following is an affiliate link for the book. If you order it, I’ll get a little money (but it won’t cost you extra.)  Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.

I also need to tell you that the copy I have is an advance copy I was sent because I requested it. I requested it because I was a fan of their previous book, Made to Stick. However, I will be buying my own copy when the book comes out in February. (And a handful of copies for other people.)

finding bright spots

“What did you learn about God this week?”

conversationThat’s how I used to start conversations with a friend I’ve been mentoring for awhile. I could have started with “So how have you failed this week” or “did you follow through with reading your Bible every day.”

But I didn’t. I was more interested in knowing what he was learning than with checking up on certain behaviors.

He reminded me of that question the other day as we were talking about Switch, the new book by Chip and Dan Heath. As we started our 2010 meetings for coffee and hot chocolate and conversation, we decided to work our way through this book.

Helping people change

Why? Because both of us are interested in helping people change, including ourselves.  As Chip and Dan point out, “Ultimately, all change efforts boil down to the same mission: can you get people to start behaving in a new way?” (p 4) We need counsel. And this book is it.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard is a book about bringing about change, particularly when change is difficult. They identify three critical elements of any process or program of change: direct the rider, motivate the elephant, and shape the path. Said in less vivid language,

“For individuals’ behavior to change, you’ve got to influence not only their environment but theur hearts and minds. The problem is this: Often the heart and mind disagree. Fervently.” (p 5).

As we work our way through the book over the next few weeks, I’ll be making some notes here from our conversations. (If you want a brief overview, go to this video review of Switch as a whole from Chris Brogan.)

Finding Bright Spots

Their first strategy for directing the rider, for engaging the head, is to find bright spots. In moving toward change, rather than spending so much time on what’s wrong or how it happened or who is at fault, someone making a switch will look for what is working, for some example of the kind of behavior you want.

Chip and Dan identify the Miracle question: “If a miracle happened overnight and your problem were solved, what’s the first small sign that would make you think the problem was gone.” And then they identify the Exception question: “When was the last time you saw the miracle, even for a little bit.” (from p 36-39).

We all know about positive reinforcement: looking for good behaviors and reinforcing them. Dan and Chip seem to be going beyond simple care plans and behaviorism. They say, in essence, “engage the people you are helping to change in the process of identifying the good behaviors. Help them think about how things could be better, different.”

Going back to my question above, here’s how it illustrates the “bright spots” approach:

My friend has had plenty of accountability. He knows the rules and the principles. I’m not interesting in helping him keep spiritual rules. What I’m most interested in is helping him learn, in this case, about God in a relational way.  When I help him think about his learnings, regardless of how they came about, I can help him think about how he learned that idea or fact or principle. I’m helping him find successes in growing in relationship, even if it comes in failing at certain behaviors.

But it’s easy to see failures

As we talked, he said “This assumes that there are bright spots.”

I understand his comment. As we look at behaviors, we constantly focus on failures, in ourselves and in others. We run our heads into the wall, thinking “I’ll never get this. I always fail.”

Even as I’m writing this post, I got an email from a friend, remarkably gifted in caring. He’s struggling with believing that to be true.

I understand that struggle. So do you.

But if we are going to change ourselves and the people around us, we need to look for the bright spots that show that we are changing, that there are starting places that are working.

So what do we do?

If you want to stop wasting time browsing on the Internet, finding a bright spot means “Make a list of 2-3 times you turned off the computer and were incredibly creative.” If you want to help your kids stop fighting, finding a bright spot means “make a list of 2-3 times they cooperated.” If you want to get people to be more proactive about accessibility, invite them write definitions of what accessibility means to you.”

As we keep reading, I’ll keep testing the approach that Chip and Dan describe. I’ll let you know what we learn.

For now, what didn’t I explain very well about bright spots?


Above and following is an affiliate link for the book. If you order it, I’ll get a little money (but it won’t cost you extra.)  Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.

I also need to tell you that the copy I have is an advance copy I was sent because I requested it. I requested it because I was a fan of their previous book, Made to Stick. However, I will be buying my own copy when the book comes out in February. (And a handful of copies for other people.)