Home Best Practices “OK, but let’s look on the bright side . . . .”

“OK, but let’s look on the bright side . . . .”

In their best-selling book, “Switch,” brothers Chip and Dan Heath discuss why it’s so difficult for us to change, whether we’re trying to change the way we eat or change the way we do business.  The culprit is a fundamental conflict that’s hardwired into our brains.  But once you understand the conflict, you can find ways to manage it.  If you have concerns about your ability to effect transformative change, in either your personal or professional life, please read below.

According to the brothers Heath, our minds operate with two different systems.  Our “Rational Mind” is the part of us that is deliberate, thoughtful, cautious, and analytical.  But left to its own devices, our Rational Mind will get bogged down in analysis paralysis.  It will think, ponder, analyze, and play “what if” games endlessly, but won’t take any action.  On the other hand, our “Emotional Mind” is all about action.  It doesn’t want to spend time thinking about stuff, it just wants to get the show on the road.  Unfortunately, without the offsetting influence of the Rational Mind, the Emotional Mind may get the show on a road to nowhere with no gas in the tank.  So we have this constant internal conflict or tug-of-war.  The Rational Mind knows we need to lose weight, the Emotional Mind wants beer and pizza.

When you’re trying to implement significant change, the trick according to the Heath brothers, is to find a “Path” that satisfies the Rational Mind and still excites the Emotional Mind.  But finding such a Path can be easier said than done.  As you would expect, the intrepid Heath brothers have a way.  They advise looking for “bright spots” or “exceptions.”  Here’s what they mean.

Let’s say we’re trying to roll out a new product or service offering.  In 98% of our market area, sales are dismal.  A normal response to a problem like this might be to review all our marketing materials, talk to our sales people about what they’re encountering in the field, and try to find a reason for our lackluster sales results.  The Heaths response would be different.  While this can be somewhat counterintuitive, they recommend looking at the “bright spots,” in this case, the 2% of our market area where sales are at or above expectations.  Instead of trying to figure out why the 98% are failing, let’s figure out why the 2% are succeeding and that will be our Path for success with the 98% as well.

In another example, a healthcare worker was trying to help malnourished kids in a primitive part of the world where the main problems were poverty, poor sanitation, and poor access to clean water.  With almost no budget or manpower, the worker couldn’t hope to follow a Path that would even make a dent in such large, intractable problems.  So he went looking for “exceptions” or “bright spots.”  He went looking for kids who, even though mired in the same problems, were healthier and better-nourished than other kids.  He studied what their parents were doing that the parents of malnourished kids were not, and developed a Path that would help all parents adopt practices that were within their means and that would keep their kids healthier and better fed.

So when you’re faced with enacting significant change or solving a big problem, remember that neither part of your mind can do it alone.  Give yourself a Path that will give clear direction to your Rational Mind, and an exciting outcome to your Emotional Mind.

This really only scratches the surface of the Heaths’ great book, “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.”  If you want the full story, pick up a copy.  Highly recommended.

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