Thoughts on Chip Heath, author of “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” and “Made to Stick,” both best-sellers.
When I woke up this morning, I switched on a light. Did you? (Don’t worry, this isn’t a post on energy conservation—I’m not judging you.)
But when I switched on that light, the switch didn’t really happen in my brain. The room was lit, but I was not really awake.
My brain needed something big, something powerful to get it going, to motivate it. Well, for me, this was caffeine. But for Chip Heath, it is something much more transformational.
If we can make the transition from ketchup to salsa as the top-selling condiment in the United States, we can change anything.
Here at the Council on Foundations annual conference in Denver, we’re about BIG change.
To get there, we need to flip some serious switches in society. Some of these will be harder and some will be easier than others.
We must be aware of our tendency to over-plan and remember to motivate. To direct those we want to influence toward a specific goal—the “bright spots” that make us feel good, that represent the true solutions out there. This is not what we naturally do. We tend to focus on the bad.
These bright spots exist throughout our sector and our society. I challenge each of you to put these successes at the top. Talk about them. Put them out there in front of your peers.
And be emotional about it. Tap into what drives us all: passion, commitment, the drive to make a difference.
Chip Heath presents this to us brilliantly. This is certainly how we approach our lives—our families, our children, our partners. Why are we afraid to do it in our philanthropy, in our programs, in our leadership for change? Imagine a marriage proposal with a metrics analysis as part of the convincing argument. Not very compelling.
“See, feel, change”—this needs to be our new mantra. And we need to do everything we can to make the environment that we operate in more likely to act on our direction for change, to take away the barriers.
The truth is that we are dealing with some really difficult issues—inequality, poverty and violence among them—and it will not be as easy as waking up with a new outlook on life. If it were this easy, we would have changed many of these things already—but we haven’t. However, we’ll take all the help we can get.
And so: When you get up tomorrow, I urge you to not just switch on the light, but to take that change you strive to create and do everything you can to make it easy. Direct, shape, motivate.
Chet Tchozewski is the founder and president emeritus of the Global Greengrants Fund.