Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Change or Die

I loved Alan Deutschman's article "Change or Die" when it ran in Fast Company, and I love the book he expanded the article into: Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change in Work and in Life.

In 2004, Deutschman attended a conference to explore solutions to the world's biggest problems. A dream of experts who spoke on health care said, "A relatively small percentage of the population consumes the vast majority of the health-care budget for diseases that are very well known and by and large behavioral."

Smoking. Drinking. Eating unhealthily. Stress. Not enough exercise.

And only 1 in 10 given the "change or die" choice changed their behavior.

Deutschman spends the bulk of his book examining the components of successful change. It is possible to change the way you think, feel, and act. Deutschman identifies three motivators that don't work -- fear, facts, and force -- and three that do -- relationships, reframing, and repeating. He uses three major case studies and a number of others to illustrate these principles and describes how individuals and organizations can use these processes to make deep-seated, lasting changes.

In clear, practical language, Deutschman explains important tools for change:
  • Frames
  • Denial and other psychological defenses
  • Short-term wins
  • Community and culture
  • Acting as if
  • Recasting a life story
  • Walk the walk
  • The brain is plastic
  • The solution might be the problem
Giving people hope is far more important than giving them facts, says Deutschman. Then give them the skills they need and help them practice, practice, practice.

Nothing in the book is really groundbreaking (Deutschman himself points out that the patterns for successful change have been known for decades), and I think his model is simplistic at times, but that's part of what I enjoy about the book. Deutschman takes a range of change models and in clear, direct language synthesizes their mutual and most powerful elements in a practical handbook for change. For me, the real strength of Change or Die is that simplicity.

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