February 13, 2010

Ambiguity is exhausting - You Need to Script the Critical Moves

41X1FhhhArL._SL500_AA240_.jpgSo I am trying to find time to read through Chip Heath and Dan Heath's new book Switch - How to Change Things when Change is Hard. So far it has been a great read and I have a feeling that I will totally recommend the book once I read it all. When I picked it up this morning, I almost immediately began to relate to their message.  

When you want to have or support change you have to script the critical moves. 

People get overloaded. As the Heath brother's point out and we note in our marketing workshop at Mythology (the company I have been at for over a year), "The Paradox of Choice" debilitates us because we become overloaded. We tend to shut down. So if you want change you can't offer a lot of options. 

This is an issue that I have dealt with poorly when it comes to recommending technologies, I often give people two or three options to collaborate or create a web page or edit a photograph, with the idea that they might want to explore a couple of options and figure out what is best for them or best for the situation they are in. This is rarely what they want. They really want me to decide the best option and tell them what it is. This usually presents the challenge of investing enough time to understand their issues and choose the best option or to try to guess and give them your recommendation (best guess). I find the second one hard to do of course.

The next part of the process is the one that really hit me this morning. "It's not only options that yield decision paralysis..." Ambiguity does, too.  Ambiguity is exhausting to those who are trying to implement the change.  The book goes on, "Many leaders pride themselves on setting high-level direction: I'll set the vision and stay out of the details."  This is crazy. (my addition) People need someone to bring the noble goal within the realm of everyday behavior, someone who can suggest a good place to start. 

The Heath Brothers sum it up by saying "Ambiguity is the enemy. Any successful change requires a translation of ambiguous goals into concrete behaviors. In short.... you need to script the critical moves.  The book goes into examples of how to do this. 

I am going to try to reflect on how some of the changes that I would like to see in myself, at home, and in the office are ambiguous. Practical examples such as creating a chart for exercise and/or scripting a process for purchasing miscellaneous items out of the home budget (I just haven't made that easy enough yet) are good areas where scripting the critical steps are almost mandatory for success. 

Of course, as I write this blog post I realize that these things are common sense and I've known them for years and have had many successes implementing support structures (scripting the critical moves) across all aspects of my life.  It would be hard to be part of several start-up businesses over 15 years and not have some component of this in place.   

I think what I like the most is that the Heath Brothers made it clear to me that it's not just ineffective not to plan the details of change, it is exhausting.

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  1. Switch by Chip and Dan Heath is a great read, very empowering BS offers great practical advice and 'real world' examples. It challenges me to evaluate those aspects of my life when I am the rider (rational thinking ) and when I am the elephant (emotional attachment). As an educator who is new to technology, I am exploring various ways to use technology in my teacher and how to lead change in my school.

  2. This is an interesting discussion. As a teacher, one of the things that we discuss a lot is how to implement necessary changes to stay current. We want to make sure that we are investing in the right tools and spending time to learn how to use them. It is important for administration to suggest these changes in the right way and with the right support for the staff. I look forward to reading this book for further insight.