For leaders to be successful, their lives must be in balance. That's why I am a long term fan of the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. It focuses on uniting the rational and emotional sides of our brains to help encourage change. The beauty of this book is the blend of examples from corporate life and our personal lives.
The book's structure is based on the notion that change is affected by three elements: the Elephant, our emotional side; The Rider, our rational side; and The Path which can aid or hinder our route to change. In order to successfully implement change, we must direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant and shape its Path. To succeed, The Rider must buy into a clear direction, The Elephant must be emotionally engaged, and The Path must always entice and direct both.
The book is rich in examples and has strong connections to innovation. The adopting of new less invasive open heart surgery techniques is a powerful case in point. To implement what was a radical change at the time, two hospitals used differing change processes. One hospital dove fully into the concept and provided rigorous coaching to teams, maximised the learning opportunities in an intense initial period and managed the rigorous rollout. In contrast, at the other hospital a head-strong surgeon diluted the change, using a reduced ‘invasive’ technique and failed to maximise learning and momentum from the start. It is no surprise to find that the first hospital, who aligned Elephant and Rider while paving a clear path ahead, was successful while the surgeon was not.
At Potential Squared, we see ourselves as a guide for organisations. We can engage the hearts and minds of the leaders and teams we work with, while helping them shape their path. Through foresight and insights, we help our clients get ready for the bumps in the road ahead. As with the open heart surgery analogy, we know that big problems are rarely solved with big solutions - they rely instead on a sequence of small but impactful changes. After all, you can't push an elephant who doesn't want to move, but when Elephants and Riders move together as one in a clear direction, change can and does happen.
While the analysis in Switch rings true, it is up to the reader to interpret the analogies and apply them to their own work and home life. Ask yourself what is working and what you can do more of – what are the bright spots? When trying to encourage and implement change, don’t look at the middle, as it will have shifted before you get there. Aim for a strong beginning, point to your destination, and then use both your heart and head to shape your path, wherever you want it to take you.