top of page
  • Writer's pictureLiz W.

Review for "Switch" by Chip and Dan Heath

*Workbook in Progress*

I am still catching up on creating workbooks for the previous books I posted questions for - including this one. All questions will remain available to you here in the meantime!

Intro to the Review

We have all had the experience of enthusiastically starting a new book only to realize that it is not what were expecting. The purpose of the following review is not to express my opinion on whether the book is "good" or "bad." I expect most of the books I read to be "good," Whether or not it is the right book for you is another question entirely. My goal for this and every review I write is to help you decide whether this book would be a good fit for you.

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • Does it seem like the content covered in this book aligns with what I was expecting to find?

  • Is the main problem addressed in this book similar to my own goal for what I would like to get from reading it?

  • Is the style and format written in a way that will not hinder my ability to get the most value from this book?

  • Am I the intended audience for this book?

If after reading the review, you can answer yes to all these questions, there's a pretty good chance this book is the right fit for you. If not, well, there are plenty more books out there just waiting for you to read them.


How To Change When Change is Hard

Chip and Dan Heath

Ⓒ 2010 Crown Business

305 pages

"Change isn't an event; it's a process."

Pick up where you left off:


Book Review

Author Background

Chip Heath is a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He teaches courses on business strategy and organization. Dan Heath works at The Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke University. They have written a number of bestselling books including Made to Stick (2007) and Decisive (2013)

Their website can be found here.

What Problem Does This Book Attempt To Address?

When people are unsuccessful at implementing change in their personal lives or in their organizations, they may be lacking the necessary components found in most successful changes. The book lays out what these components are, the different techniques for recognizing and implementing them, and how to use them together to greatly increase the probability of managing a change successfully.


· Concept explanation: Exceptional concepts, average explanation

· Related stories: Many

· Data references and studies: Average

· Charts and graphics: One

· Practical application: Average

Writing Style & Presentation

· Tone: Laid-back

· Organization: Average

· Flow: Average, at times confusing.

It is apparent that the authors spent a great deal of effort to provide extremely high quality content. The concepts themselves are very well thought out and all their main points work together harmoniously. While research studies and references to other works are present, the book focuses prominently on a wide array of stories of individuals who successfully implemented a change and why they were successful.

I assume the reasoning behind providing so many stories is that if the reader is stuck in their own change situation, they will find one or two that really speak to their situation and help them. However, I found that the amount of detail and the overall number of these stories began to make it more challenging stay on track. The main points sometimes felt mixed up together. This is fine after you learn the concepts and you are practicing recognizing them, but it makes it more difficult when you are first learning. I think that shorter snippets of the stories with emphasis just on the main point of that section would have been a more effective way to present the information.

Tangentially, many of the chapter sections start with a story, without first giving the reader a hint as to what they should be paying attention for. The amount of background and details provided for each story made me question what the purpose of the story was until I got to the end and they explained it. I don't know if there were just too many stories or if the presentation was the reason it felt that way. All the stories did provide value. There were none I felt that shouldn't have been included based on utility. Again, the high-quality of work that went into this book is quite apparent. That being said, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

Lastly, there is one chart at the end of Part 3 that lays out all the concepts in one place. This was extremely helpful. I think building this into the other two parts would have helped with the organizational feel of the book.

Bringing It All Together

One thing done extraordinarily well in this book is having all three main points work together cohesively. This was not just three random pieces of advice that were put in the same book. These pieces took one change theory, broke it down into three concepts that built off each other, and then took those concepts and broke each one into actionable steps. I was very impressed by how well this was done.

As I addressed earlier, one thing that could have been done better was the presentation of the material.

One main thing I took away from this book was that although the changes people are trying to implement may seem wildly different depending on circumstances and goals, this change theory underlies all of them. If you are struggling with an ineffective change, it may require a lot of brainstorming and trial-and=error, but making sure you have a solid foundation is half the battle.

Favorite Quote

“What's working and how can we do more of it?"

Overall Recommendation

Who I would recommend this book for: Someone who has been trying to implement an organizational change but has been unsuccessful or met with resistance thus far.

Who I wouldn’t recommend this book for: Someone looking to make a change in their individual life or habits. Not that this book would make it harder to change, but it would probably be better in conjunction with a book that is a little more hands-on, such as Kerry Patterson's book Change Anything.


Discussion Questions

Change Situations Worksheet

As you read through the stories presented in this book, this worksheet will help you identify the 3 parts of the change pattern and which elements were used successfully Stories are brought up again in later chapters, so keep adding to this worksheet as you go. Each page is for one story.

Switch Change Situations Worksheet - Oak Tree Reading
Download PDF • 389KB

Chapter 1

What does the popcorn study expose about one reason why people do or do not change?

What is the first part of the pattern for successful change?

What are the two independent systems at work in the brain?

What are the strengths and weaknesses associated with the Elephant?

What are the strengths and weaknesses associated with the Rider?

What is the difference between self-control and willpower?

Why does change expend large amounts of self-control?

What is the second part of the pattern for successful change?

What is the third part of the pattern for successful change?

What are the 3 (catchy) names given to these three pieces of the pattern?

Chapter 2

What is a bright spot?

Why is it important to identify and rule out TBUs?

What is the problem with the natural analytical process of the Rider?

What two questions are first asked in solution-focused therapy?

What is the importance of the Exception Question and how does it relate to change management?

What is the overarching theme about the size of a problem vs the solution seen frequently in change management?

What does the analysis of “emotion” words give us insight about?

Chapter 3

What causes decision paralysis?

Why do people prefer the status quo more often than not?

What is the crucial missing piece in hands-off leadership?

Where must change begin and what gets in the way of this?

Why is the food pyramid a good example of how not to create change?

What kind of goals have created the most successful transformations?

What is the overall takeaway from chapter 3?

Chapter 4

What is the function of a destination postcard for the Rider versus the Elephant?

When do rationalizations occur?

What is the solution for avoiding these rationalizations?

What are the 2 keys to sum up Part 1?

Chapter 5

What is at the core of change situations that most people miss?

In what order do most people think change happens, and in what order does it actually happen?

Why don’t analytical tools work for big changes?

When people don’t change, what is usually not the cause?

What is positive illusion and what effect does it have on people?

What is one reason we tend to believe positive illusions about ourselves?

When is creating a crisis appropriate and inappropriate to motivate change?

What effect do negative emotions have on our thoughts?

By contrast, what effect do positive emotions have on our thoughts?

Chapter 6

What is the benefit of acknowledging progress?

How can you get an Elephant to start moving?

What does engineering early successes create?

What two things improve someone’s confidence in ability during a change?

What two traits should small wins have?

What fundamental mistake do people make when creating to-do lists?

What can small victories trigger?

Chapter 7

Alternatively to shrinking the change, change can be motivated by what method?

What two models do people rely on to make choices?

What 3 questions does the identity model have us ask?

What type of change effort is doomed to fail?

What statement should you ask about the people for whom you desire to create a behavioral change?

What is the first step in cultivating a new identity?

How do you combat the feelings of failure when creating a new identity?

What are the benefits of a growth mindset in regards to change management?

What does the growth mindset buffer against?

What trade-off must be made to implement change?

Chapter 8

What is the name for the concept of blaming people and ignoring situational forces?

How can you make the change journey easier?

What is the end-goal when tweaking the environment?

Why is the “bribe and punishment” method ineffective?

How can we shape the path to outsmart ourselves?

What are the three parts used in injury prevention to systematically decrease injury outcomes?

Chapter 9

How do community expectations impact change?

What is present in comfortable or familiar environments that often thwarts change efforts?

What is the function of an action trigger?

What can make an action trigger ineffective?

How can you create a habit that supports the change you want to make?

What tool can make behavior more consistent and habitual?

What is the downside to overconfidence?

Chapter 10

How do humans naturally react in ambiguous situations?

What is the social psychology behind why we react to crises different when we are alone compared to when we are around others?

What is the alternative to peer pressure that is referred to in this chapter?

What is the function of free spaces in a change movement?

What is the benefit of oppositional identities?

Why is group conflict often necessary for a change to occur

Chapter 11

What is the first thing to do once you’ve started your change journey?

What are most of us terrible at, and why?

What main characteristic is required of someone who wants to lead a change process?

What is the benefit of the mere exposure effect?

How does cognitive dissonance work to create change inertia?

Vocabulary List

These are words I noticed while reading that some people may be unfamiliar with. Use the worksheet to customize this list for yourself.

Derelict: (adj.) Abandoned, run-down

Disparate: (adj.) Made up of fundamentally different and often incongruous elements

Egregious: (adj.) Very bad and easily noticed

Facetious: (adj.) Joking or jesting often inappropriately

Grouse: (v.) Complain, grumble

Immutable: (adj.) Not capable of or susceptible to change

Intrepid: (adj.) Characterized by fearlessness and endurance

Peccadillo: (n.) A slight offense

Predilection: (n.) An established preference for something

Quintessential: (adj.) Perfectly typical or representative of a particular kind of person or thing

Raucous: (adj.) Disagreeably harsh

Ubiquitous: (adj.) Seeming to be seen everywhere

Discussion Question Workbook

The workbook that accompanies this post includes:

  • All discussion questions with space for writing answers

  • All vocabulary words with space to write definitions and add your own words

  • Chapter reflection questions

  • Final reflection questions

  • A condensed list of all discussion questions, for reference.

You can download this complimentary workbook for free:

Switch by Chip and Dan Heath Discussion Question Workbook - Oak Tree Reading
Download PDF • 540KB

And if you didn't download the Change Situations Worksheet above, I really recommend it to make the most of the book.

I hope you enjoyed this post!

Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to get the latest updates.

If you like this post, please share it with someone you think would enjoy it too!!


bottom of page