February 15, 2021

Key Ideas

Change is hard. To execute change, leaders have to act differently and motivate their teams to act differently. This book details a framework to effect change.

Elephants and Riders

Based on Jonathan Haidt’s work, the authors describe how each person has an emotional Elephant side and a rational Rider side. What motivates one does not help with the other. To effect change, you must appeal to both the Elephant and the Rider.


Directing the Rider

  1. Find what’s working. Instead of focusing on problem analysis, find the thing that is working, and clone it. Follow the bright spots.
  2. Script the critical moves. Find a series of small, but pivotal, steps to change, and script them. The critical part is important: else you are unsustainably scripting everything.
  3. Point to the destination. Create a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal [[BHAG]] or a Destination Postcard. These do double duty by showing the Rider where you’re headed and show the Elephant why the journey is worthwhile.

Motivate the Elephant

  1. Find the feeling - rational logic isn’t enough; make people feel something viscerally. People think the sequence is ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE but in reality, for most big changes, the sequence is SEE-FEEL-CHANGE.
  2. Shrink the change - break down the change until it not scary or demoralizing. Every large change starts with a small change, make that change a small win.
  3. Grow your people - cultivate a sense of identity and instill a growth mindset.

Shape the Path

  1. Tweak the environment - change the situation instead of changing the behavior.
  2. Build habits - look for ways to encourage habits rather than banking on motivation.
  3. Rally the herd - behavior is contagious. Help it spread.

Other interesting ideas

Prefer to use positive emotion to motivate, vs. scaring people or using negative emotion such as the Burning Platform Memo (choice between a fiery death or a cold sea and shark food.)

The Haddon Matrix is a simple framework that provides a way to think systematically about accidents by highlighting three key periods of time:

The Checklist is a great tool to accomplish two things at once: 1) tweaking the environment and 2) building habits.