Up the (Willow) Creek: Chip and Dan Heath


heath_brosIn the final post summarizing my take-aways from the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, I want to take a quick look at Chip & Dan Heath’s session: Switch.

The Heaths, authors of Made to Stick and the upcoming Switch (available in early 2010!), address the question, “Why is change sometimes so hard, and other times so easy?”

Any sort of successful change, say the Heaths, “requires convincing the organization that change is the right thing.” Once we’ve done that, we move on to the next issue: Identifying what is working. The Heaths suggest that we first “look for the bright spots—the things that show that success is possible. Find what works and duplicate those things… Bright spots are proof that people are capable of solving their problems.”

This sentiment reminds me of something CJ Mahaney said at Text & Context last year, when he encouraged the audience (and podcast listeners) to “look for evidence of God’s grace in the lives of those around you.” This allows us to see where God is already working in our lives and ministries.

As we do this, we can begin to identify the things we’re doing that are true, but useless. Our fake work that fails to line up with the values and needs of the organization, however important or big it may actually be. In doing this, we have to ask the question, “What do we need to set aside?”

This then leads preparing our people for change in that we tell them the truth. This is, for many, a radical shift. I suspect more than a few reading this have experienced their employers and supervisors playing the “everything’s fine” card… until they call you into their office at the end of the week to let you go.

This is a shift into a growth mindset, that works out skills so they can actually get better and builds in a tolerance for failure. Because, truly the idea that failure is not an option is ridiculous. “You only get better as you fail,” say the Heaths. It’s when we are in the midst of failure that we enter what the Heaths call the “Valley of Insight,” where we discover the mistakes we’ve made in leadership, where we eliminate fake work, and begin to see where are problems are really coming from. That they may not be so much of a person problem, but a situation problem. We can discover what it is about our situation that is preventing growth, service, etc. And in this stage, we have the opportunity to reverse engineer the successful changes we’ve already made, discover why they’ve worked and do it again.

I really appreciated Chip and Dan Heath’s session at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit as I found it, in particular, to be very hopeful about the idea of change. So many of us are scared of change all the time that we settle for the illusion of change, like initiatives like “Casual Friday” at the office, or (as some companies do) putting in games rooms and accessories to entertain staff… But, generally, we don’t consider changing how we work, preferring to hold tight to a system of work that doesn’t really fit in the digital era (this is a discussion for another post though).

What I see from the Heaths is an encouragment for everyone to embrace change as the wonderful thing it actuallly can be.

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