Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard: Heath and Heath 2010

Switch Heath and Heath

Change is a vital process for any business or organization. The failure to adapt to a continuously evolving environment leads inevitably to failure and eventual extinction.

I’m always looking and listening for book recommendations. I had the privilege of attending the Thai IOD “Anti Corruption Conference” on 15 October. During the lunch break Professor Robert Klitgaard of Claremont Graduate University gave a very interesting presentation about countries that managed to change course, significantly reducing corruption, improving competitiveness, improving public engagement and confidence. During his presentation he referenced the book “Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard” by Chip and Dan Heath. I immediately added the book to my “Unread Books Collection.”

I have just completed reading “Switch”, and I can report that I found the book quite interesting and very useful. The authors did a great job of presenting an effective and practical template for achieving effective and lasting change.

“Switch” proposes that change is most effectively achieved by recognizing and responding to both rational and emotional elements, and then creating an process to enable, support, and sustain the desired change.

To most effectively and memorably introduce and explain their change template, they have created the metaphor of a Rider, an Elephant, and a Path.

The Rider is the rational human element. The Rider can be readily convinced of the needed change by presenting logical and analytical framework, but the Rider is also easily distracted and confused by excessive options or inadequate direction. The Authors recommend providing the Rider with clearly scripted critical moves and a precise vision of the destination or objective.

To most effectively determine the change which is required to achieve an objective, the authors discuss the concept of “Bright Spots.” Look for examples of success that can be replicated, such as an employee who is succeeding at a task where others are failing. Identify the key success factor and replicate it. Solutions for most problems typically already exist, but it often takes diligence and persistence to find the “Bright Spots” that illuminate the solution.

The Elephant is the emotional human element. The Elephant doesn’t readily respond to rational explanation; it must be motivated. Promote the change in a way which reaches the heart and feelings of the team. Massive change is inherently demotivating, so the authors recommend breaking down the change into smaller, more readily achievable milestones. This allows rapid and frequent successes along the path to the ultimate change destination.

Finally, the Authors recommend “Shaping the Path” to facilitate the change process. Behaviors change when the situation changes, so seek to change the situation or environment to most effectively and efficiently achieve the desired change in behavior. Seek “Action Triggers” to encourage behaviors to become habits. Rally the team or organization to adopt the change as a contagious behavior.

As I read “Switch”, I found myself frequently remembering occasions when I pursued or promoted change using either a rational, emotional, or process (path) based approach. However, I was rarely conscious of my choice of method to promote change, and I don’t believe I ever successfully combined and utilized all three change drivers simultaneously. Individual people are complicated, and teams and organizations are both complicated and diverse. It makes a great deal of sense to utilize all three change driving tools to best motivate and sustain the change process.

Frank T.

Japan and the Shackles of the Past: T. Murphy 2014

Japan T Murphy 2014I had the privilege of hearing Taggart Murphy speak a few weeks ago at our Rotary Club of Bangkok South luncheon meeting. Murphy is an engaging and genuinely interesting speaker, and I was very interested to hear his thoughts on Japanese politics, economics, and culture. His presentation inspired me to purchase his recent book “Japan and the Shackles of the Past”, which was published in December 2014 by Oxford University Press.

Murphy is a Professor of International Political Economy at the MBA Program in International Business at the Tokyo campus of the University of Tsukuba. He is also a former Investment Banker, and was a Non-Resident Senior Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“Japan and the Shackles of the Past” is very well researched and presented, and is organized into two parts. Part One is titled “The Forging of the Shackles” and presents a very thorough political, economic, and cultural history of Japan. Murphy diligently educates the reader in the historical and cultural foundations upon which Japanese society has been constructed.

Part Two is titled “The Shackles Trap Today’s Japan”, and is organized into chapters focused on “Economy and Finance”, “Business”, “Social and Cultural Change”, “Politics”, and “Japan and the World.”

Murphy has very thoroughly researched and presented both the rich historical background and the complex, opaque, and frequently contradictory nature of modern day Japanese culture and politics.

The final chapter of the book “Japan and the World” primarily deals with Japan’s current events and geopolitical challenges and strategy starting in mid 2010. With out a doubt, this is by far the most interesting and thought provoking chapter in the book. Murphy skillfully analyzes, interprets, and anticipates Japan’s current events and strategy by frequently referencing the foundational material presented in the previous 10 chapters.

It is clear in the final chapter that Murphy has shifted his author’s perspective from cultural and economic historian to geopolitical and economic analyst and strategist. He objectively explains current events, and then presents his subjective analysis of these events based on his extensive knowledge of Japanese history and culture.

Murphy does not evaluate Japan in a vacuum; he is always careful to diligently explain the broad geopolitical and economic external forces which are confronting and challenging Japan. He observes that “China is the greatest power in the region; it always has been and always will be.” He notes that though China has had periods of internal weakness, the latest and longest such period having began with the Opium Wars, “there is simply no plausible way in which China’s re-emergence as the preeminent power in Asia can be derailed.”

Of the USA, Murphy notes that “the United States does not fundamentally care about Japan. That does not mean to say that many Americans do not have some sort of personal tie with the country and thus regard it with affection.” He further explains that “American elites rarely see Japan as anything other than a military asset, as a tool to realize a dream … that the United States can somehow achieve … a world where it faces no potential threat, no potential challenge — ‘full spectrum dominance’ to use the language of America’s deluded military planners.” He describes this dream as a “tragic and foolhardy illusion.” Murphy discusses President Eisenhower’s warning of the emergence of a military – industrial complex “that would destroy American democracy unless brought to heel.” He anticipates that “the American Empire is doomed to failure because it is structurally and institutionally ignorant of the wider world. Only a demolition of the national security state can remedy this ignorance.”

Murphy explains that “China wants the United States out of Asia far more badly than the United States wants to stay in the region; Beijing has embarked on a long and high-stakes game to see it happen. The stakes may be equally high for Tokyo, but they are not for most Americans, and when that becomes clear, the US – Japan ‘alliance’ will crumble, leaving Japan alone and friendless.”

Murphy discusses Japan’s need to rejoin Asia. He notes that “Japan’s original sin lies in its attempts to separate itself from Asia. The sin is understandable but the repercussions have been horrendous.” Looking to the future, Murphy observes that it “seems safe to predict the coming close of the 500 – year ascendancy of the West and the return of the fulcrum of human history to East Asia. Japan has potentially a central role to play in this, but only as an Asian country accepted by its neighbors as such.”

I highly recommend reading Taggart Murphy’s “Japan and the Shackles of the Past”. It is a great compliment to my other two recent recommendations, “Asian Godfathers” and “How Asia Works”, both by Joe Studwell.

Frank T.

Thai IOD Chartered Director Class


The Thai Institute of Directors (Thai IOD) was founded in 1999 and has become the leading Thailand based organization promoting Director Professionalism and Corporate Governance.


I am a big fan of the Thai IOD, both for its significant contributions to leadership and Corporate Governance, and also for its strong commitment to anti-corruption and ethical behavior.

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Thai IOD’s “Chartered Director Class” (CDC). This is a two day course that is designed to “enhance directorship expertise by strengthening key knowledge and skills.” A prerequisite to attending the Chartered Director Class is the successful completion of the Thai IOD’s “Director Certification Program” (DCP), which is a 5 day intensive course covering the fundamentals of directorship and Corporate Governance.

The CDC class was organized as four (4) half day modules covering Accountability, the Art of Directorship, the Strategic Board, and Ethical Decision Making.

I’ve attended many professional development classes and seminars. However, with very few exceptions, the Thai IOD courses have consistently been the most rigorous and professionally managed programs I’ve had the privilege of attending. The Thai IOD prides itself on starting its programs on time, and fully utilizing the time allocated for each program module. Thai IOD programs are definitely not long coffee breaks periodically interrupted by brief lectures; these are intensive lectures and engaging professional dialogs with only brief interruptions for coffee and lunch. No, you won’t be going home early … sorry, you won’t beat the traffic. However, you can always be sure to derive maximum value from your time and monetary investment in a Thai IOD program.

The CDC program was facilitated by Dr. Bandid Nijathaworn, Banchong Chittchang, Professor Dr. Kriengsak Chareonwongsak, and Dr. Warapatr Todhanakasem. These four gentlemen each have very impressive professional and academic credentials, and are also quite gifted lecturers and facilitators. The facilitators, course materials, and case studies were all very well developed, organized, and presented.

Equally important to a professional development program is the quality of the participants. The Thai IOD is very successful in not only attracting and retaining the best quality facilitators, but also the best quality and diversity of participants. Our CDC class had fifteen men and women, Thais and foreigners, coming from a variety of professional and academic backgrounds. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to share this CDC experience with such distinguished and experienced peers.

The benefits of Directorship and Corporate Governance training are not limited to the Boards of Directors of Public or Listed Companies. Any professional manager, director, or leader of a listed or limited company can benefit from the skills, leadership, ethics, and governance fundamentals taught by the Thai IOD. These courses are not “cheap”, but they provide great value for both the individual participants and also for the organizations and teams of participants.

Frank T.