This summer I received an email from Worthingway Principal, Nathan Kellenberger.  In his email Nathan shared that he had just finished reading a book that he thought I would enjoy, and he wanted to recommend the book to me.  The book was “Switch:  How to Change Things, When Change is Hard” by Chip and Dan Heath.

Worthington Schools is a great place.  For many years our tag line was:  “Where Excellence is a Tradition.”  Many people are drawn to Worthington because there is a throw-back vibe to the community that sometimes harkens back to “Leave it to Beaver” land.  However, with this tradition and vibe, comes a massive resistance to change.  “This is the way we’ve always done it” is a popular phrase.  Success as a school district works against us in the change process.  “Why should I have to change if what I’m doing has always worked?” 

Obviously Worthington Schools is not the only organization that struggles with change.  Books like “Switch” would not be needed if organizations, or individuals, easily sustained change.

I’m currently reading Switch for a second time and all Worthington principals are engaged in a book study using this book as our guide.  Switch is a compelling, story-driven narrative that the Heaths use to bring together research in psychology, sociology, and other fields which sheds new light on how we can engage our emotions and reason to create real change.

The authors ask us to imagine an Elephant and its Rider. The Rider represents the rational and logical. Tell the Rider what to do, provide a good argument and the Rider will do it. The Elephant, on the other hand, represents our emotions, our gut response. If the Rider can direct the Elephant down a well-prepared path then there is a good chance for change. Otherwise, the massive elephantn (emotion) is bound to win.

The book is structured into three sections, each one suggesting specific behaviors you can follow:

I. Direct the Rider:
– Find the bright spots
– Script the critical moves
– Point to the destination

II. Motivate the Elephant:
– Find the feeling
– Shrink the Change;
– Grow your people

III. Shape the Path:
– Tweak the environment
– Build habits
– Rally the herd

In Worthington we want to hold on to the traditions that are good while changing to meet an ever changing culture.  Hopefully as our administration studies the “Switch” book we will become better at leading change in our organization.

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