Switch – How to change things when change is hard

Switch by Chip and Dan Heath

by Lucy Gower

Fundraising is fundamentally about change. We fundraise to make the world a better place. In order to do this we are tasked with creating change, both on a society level, for example by influencing policy decision makers, to smaller day to day change, such as asking donors to give online or convincing your colleague to meet in a coffee shop to help you with your new fundraising idea, rather than in the stuffy and uninspiring meeting room.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

No matter the scale of the change you seek, the skills you need to nudge people to make a decision or take action are the same.

In Switch, Chip and Dan Heath use the analogy of a small rider perched on top of a huge elephant to explain how to influence the change you want. The elephant represents an emotional response, providing passion and energy to the change; the elephant is also looking for quick results. The rider is the rational voice, often over analysing in their consideration of longer-term objectives. The rider provides the planning and direction. The rider appears to be in control, but they are so small, that in reality any time the rider and the elephant disagree the rider will lose.

In order to influence change you have to appeal to both the emotional elephant and the analytical rider. When elephants and riders move together change happens easily.

In addition to the elephant and rider, the third element in influencing change is to create the clearest path for both the rider and the elephant to travel along.

In Switch, Chip and Dan use stories and case studies to bring to life their basic principles of influencing change.

So, the basic rules in Switch are to appeal to a persons emotional side as well as their rational side and then to create the clearest path to the change that you want that person to make…. just like the fundamentals of fundraising.

In my role, I am constantly nudging people to change. I am responsible for supporting the development of new ideas to deliver products and services; this could be a different approach to something that already exists or development of something totally new.

I train fundraisers in creativity techniques, such as how to approach challenges from a fresh perspective and I encourage people to try working and fundraising in new ways. I also help people sell their ideas into their manager, team, donors or service users.

I’ve found that the majority of people are apprehensive about change and Switch has given me a toolkit of tactics to nudge people to ‘buy into’ new ideas to make change happen.

Switch helped me convince my team to take a new ‘co-creation’ approach to generating new product ideas. Co-creation is when you involve the customer in the design of their products, so rather than developing a product and then asking the customer for their opinion, for example through focus groups, you involve them in the actual development of the product they need. We worked with a specialist agency to design a product ideas workshop, or ‘co-creation’ workshop with customers.

This is a change to the culture of the team – or “how we do things round here”. The usual method is customer research and analysis, from which we devise a solution, which we then test and develop. Involving customers  and working with an agency to facilitate this ‘co-creation’ workshop approach was a switch.

I directed the analytical rider by highlighting where this approach had worked for other organisations including direct competitors. I broke the process down into smaller parts starting with a small, low-risk one-day workshop as a test. I talked about what success would look like when we had an idea that would help further the organisations mission to protect children.

“I hope its not going to be too whacky with green bean bags…?” was a real concern!

I motivated the emotional elephant by again selling this co-creation switch as a small change with minimal risk and highlighted the benefits (glory!) that individuals, the team and the organisation would receive when the idea worked. I got the team to meet the individuals that would deliver the workshop to inspire confidence with a particular focus on dispelling any concerns that it would be too whacky.

I shaped the path by helping to negotiate an initial low trial cost, and worked with colleagues to rally a herd of interested past and potential new customers.

The co-creation workshop was full of energy and the right balance of creative thought and then analytical thinking. All the attendees on the day are now working with us to develop these ideas.

Henry Ford said,”If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Now, when I introduce any new idea, from a new process, product or way of working I think about the elephant and the rider and use a combination of tactics to appeal to them both. I also consider how to clear a path to make the decision as easy to achieve as possible.

Switch is for anyone who works with people. Change is constant and as fundraisers with a remit for changing the world I have no doubt that intelligent and deliberate use of the concepts in Switch will help your fundraising flourish and bring world change that bit closer.

Check out Switch at our Fundraising Bookstore

Lucy Gower is Innovation and Development Manager at the NSPCC, a UK charity whose core mission is to prevent cruelty to children. Lucy is passionate about innovation and how it can transform organisational and individual performance, and ultimately make a difference to the causes that you fundraise for. Lucy is based in London and you can contact her at lucy@lucyinnovaiton.co.uk via Twitter @lucyinnovation or via her blog www.lucyinnovation.wordpress.com

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

David Simoes-Brown July 5, 2011 at 8:38 am

Hi Lucy a very thoughtful article. It was very interesting to hear about the co-creation project from the NSPCC’s side. Working in open innovation we too often assume that everyone else knows what it is and how it works. Wrong! Switch sounds great and I look forward to reading it.


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