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Posted by Sarah Brown on 17 May '13

How understanding people is critical to business success

If we don't understand how and why people change then how can we attract new customers? I've just finished reading Switch by Chip and Dan Heath it was great, with some really powerful examples of how to help people change, make decisions and bring about change in organisations or even countries.

I am a voracious reader, member of several libraries and a self confessed bookaholic so for me to say a book is the best I've read so far is something. But that is what I have been saying about Chip and Dan Heath's book 'Switch'. It is so full of powerful examples of how people change and respond in situations. The basic thesis, not originally theirs, is that everyone has an emotional elephant inside them and rational rider, their logical brain trying to control it; in addition this elephant and rider is on a path which can be made easier to encourage particular behaviours. Starting with the path, examples are the terrifying ease of 1-Click ordering on Amazon and a business that wanted to improve customer service so removed phone answer machines so people had to respond to customers. Once a path becomes well worn ie a habit then it is easier to follow - I have been wearing a fitbit for over a month now so it has become a habit to think about how much I am moving (fitbit is another whole blog I think). Also if everyone is doing it or appearing to do it then this encourages people on this path. A classic example in business is the tip jar which will stay empty if it starts empty but if people see money in it they are likely to give.

The rider needs help so that there aren't too many choices or it becomes confused. Research shows that with 6 samples of jam rather than 24 samples there were 10x more sales. The rider needs to know why it is doing something a clear vision of the final destination makes it easier, and specific guidelines help along the way. However knowing is not enough, as we all know when we do something that we logically know we shouldn't. The elephant, our emotions, needs to be engaged - we have to really feel we want something. That's why so much advertising is about engaging the emotions and making us 'feel' part of group, a shared identity - get that for your business and you've got success. People become passionate about their brand choices just as I have about this book.

I would thoroughly recommend reading it, but if that's not your thing then I have encapsulated the key messages in a mindmap that you can email me to get.