Switch out of the rut

Posted on August 22, 2011

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Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath is worth a read. Especially for nonprofits.
Nonprofits are changing the world. But it’s tough duty to tackle some of the world’s biggest, most complex issues.

Through their 2010 book Switch, brothers Chip and Dan Heath give good examples and practical tips for anyone trying to solve a problem.

Some of the best examples in the book come from the social sector. An 18-minute (free) podcast by Dan Heath, Switch for the Social Sector, gives good advice, including these 3 tips from the book:

1) Find the bright spots. We’re wired to look for problems. But there is often value in looking more closely at what is working well. Jerry Sternin worked with Save The Children and used this technique to help fight malnutrition in Vietnam.

2) Script the critical moves. Get crystal clear on the behaviors you want to change. Donald Berwick, CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), challenged hospitals to save 100,000 lives. They acheived this goal with specific and precise behaviors.

3) Change usually comes from emotion, rather than from new information. Our first instinct is to educate people with more facts. Instead we should get people to feel something. Paul Butler was able to save an endangered St. Lucian parrot, by making the bird a symbol of national pride.

I think the social sector excels at #3 — motivating people by tugging at their heart strings. However, many nonprofits need to improve in area #2 — getting more specific about the behaviors they are trying to change.

I’d recommend Switch (and related podcast) to any nonprofiteer that wants to change the world, but feels stuck in a rut. There are many relevant examples that might inspire the change you’re looking for.

You can read the first chapter of Switch for free.

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Posted in: Book review