Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Linchpin Driven to Switch

I enjoyed Spring Break in exotic, sunny Bloomington where I decided to catch up on my reading. So what does a professional change agent who leads and teaches organizational change read for fun? Uh, books about change management? Yes! And I have three current bestsellers you must read if you want to boost your horsepower as a catalyst for change, even if the target of that change is yourself.

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

You have probably already read the Heath brothers’ first bestseller, Made to Stick. If not, you may want to grab that to find out why some great ideas stick and others don’t. Their new book surpasses that essential first hit. In Switch, they use an analogy for our brain function that says we all have an emotional component, the Elephant, and a rational component, the Rider. They argue convincingly, referring to research and anecdotes, that both have to be reached to affect real change. They suggest techniques to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path using examples of successful change efforts around the world. This book is essential if you are trying to change your own behavior or perhaps that of a major university.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Daniel H. Pink

Pink returns! No . . . not her. I’m talking about Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind and now another bestseller, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. So, you think external rewards are the best way to motivate ourselves and others? Pink says that’s a mistake and he has plenty of research to back up his assertion that the secret to high performance and satisfaction is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world. Intrinsic motivation trumps extrinsic motivation. In his words, “we know that the richest experiences in our lives aren’t when we’re clamoring for validation from others, but when we’re listening to our own voice – doing something that matters, doing it well, and doing it in the service of a cause larger than ourselves.” He examines three elements of true motivation – autonomy, mastery and purpose (AMP) and offers a practical toolbox of techniques to put these into action.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? – Seth Godin

Seth Godin’s previous bestsellers, like Purple Cow, The Dip and Tribes are among the most dog-eared books on my shelf but this one is a level of magnitude more important than those previous jolts of inspiration. This book is about finding one’s unique value in a rapidly changing world where none of the old rules seem to apply. If you are just showing up for work, you are replaceable. He argues that we all need to become artists that do “emotional labor” whether we are waiting tables or bagging groceries or working for a major university. We need to be creative, passionate and personal, and we need to “bring our gifts to work” no matter what our job description. Godin finds indispensability at the intersection of dignity, generosity and humanity and he believes we all have an artist within. He suggests that our resistance from expressing our artist within is coming from our “lizard brain” which is full of fear of risk (the Heath’s Elephant) and he provides strategies for overcoming that resistance.

These three have considerable overlap and, especially when read together, they make a great Swiss Army knife for personal and organizational change management and an elephantine motivational kick to the lizard brain. Read them and become driven to switch to indispensability.