AFP – Making the Switch – How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Overview of presentation by Dan Heath, co-author of Switch.

1) Finding the Bright Spots

Humans tend to obsess over failures rather than successes.  Scientists state that left to our natural tendencies “bad is stronger than good”.  They purport that the human condition pays more attention to bad aspects and weighs negative information more heavily than positive.  No surprise there!  We need to pay attention to the successes, the “bright spots”.


A study of children in a community showed that 65% were malnourished and sickly.  A doctor was asked to fix the problem.  He took a different tack away from the problem and decided to focus on what was working –the 35% of community children who were healthy.

He visited their mothers and asked what they were doing to keep their children healthy.  They told him they fed their children 4 bowls of smaller portions of rice whose nutrients were more easily absorbed than the 2 larger bowls of rice that other children consumed.  The mothers also added bits of fish/shrimp and/or greens to the rice.

The doctor prescribed this diet to families throughout the community.  Within 3 months,  the majority of children recovered their good health. The doc  to focus on what was successful, the bright spot to do more good.

2.  To motivate change, speak to emotion.

The spur to action comes from feeling, rarely facts.

Human beings are made up of the:

  • Rational – that analyzes, thinks
  • Emotional – that sees, feels

Humans only change when they feel the need to decide, when their emotions come into play.  Here’s a story of a CFO who worked for a company with about 50 factories.  He wanted to centralize purchasing as demonstrated by his Excel sheets that he shared with leadership.  Everyone politely listened, but no one made a decision to fix an operational problem.

The CFO decided to take a more emotional tack and asked each factory (which did their own purchasing) to send him one pair of the gloves their factory used with the price tag on each.  Gloves and their prices attached arrived and were dumped on the conference table.  Other company leaders were asked to stop by and to take a look.

They noticed that most of the gloves were different.  Some were expensive and others cost less.  It was also noted that some factories used the same glove which was purchased at  significantly higher than the same glove elsewhere.

The tagged glove pile elicited an emotional response to wasteful use of resources which motivated the decision to centralize purchasing.  In addition to chagrin, the emotion pallet has other feelings available which ads continuously prompt:

  • pity (hungry child with empty bowl)
  • optimism (smiling mother selling fruits at her stand and raising a healthy family)
  • disgust (smokers’ bad teeth)

3. Know people, call out their best and shape the path.

Instead of telling people that “because of all we do, you should give“, reverse the focus to “because of who you are, dear donor, you should give“.


A man in Saint Lucia was concerned about the extinction of a parrot that is only found in Saint Lucia.  It doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country.  He figured out a way to galvanize support to save the parrot by reflecting on the  joyous, appreciative nature of the people.  He then reflected this generous image back to them by messaging that because of who they are, they should give to preserve the parrots and their habitat.

Posted by: Linda Brown Rivelis, President