The one-sentence summary

You can get people and organizations to switch their behaviour if you direct the rider, motivate the elephant, and shape the path.


  • This is how to change things when change is hard.
  • Change is hard, unsettling, and time-consuming, and all too often we give up at the first sign of a setback.
  • But why do we insist on seeing the obstacles rather than the goal?
  • We need to understand how our minds function in order to unlock shortcuts to switches in behaviour.
  • Somebody has to act differently – you or your team.
  • Each person has an emotional Elephant side and a rational Rider side, and you need reach both to succeed. There are three steps:

1.     Direct the rider: follow the bright spots (clone what’s working best), script the critical moves (specific behaviour, not big picture), and point to the destination (you need to know where you’re going)

2.    Motivate the elephant: find the feeling (emotion works better than facts), shrink the change (small steps work best), and grow your people (cultivate a sense of identity)

3.    Shape the path: tweak the environment (new situation = new behaviour), build habits (then people don’t notice they’re doing things differently), and rally the herd (behaviour is contagious)


  • Deceptively simple methods can yield helpful results if you really want to change things.
  • You can map the stages and follow the steps easily – personally, or at work with a team.
  • What looks like resistance is often lack of clarity – make things clear and often change is easier to accommodate.
  • Looking for bright spots is more fun and successful than criticism.
  • Destination postcards –pictures of a future that can be made possible – can be very inspiring.
  • See – Feel – Change shows that the feel element is the crucial link piece to effective change.
  • The authors believe that the burning platform metaphor (jump or fry to death) is unhelpful – a positive outlook is better.


  • Nothing. It’s a clever method with lots of evidence.