Full disclosure, I’m predisposed to love this kind of book. Malcolm Gladwell’s rise to popularity was a boon to me as I love research into what makes people behave as they do, en masse and as individuals. Behavioral economics is my jam.
I wasn’t as thrilled by the last Heath brothers book I read, The Power of Moments, as it didn’t feel as substantive as Built to Stick, their expansion on Gladwell’s “stickiness” requirement for ideas to “tip” in The Tipping Point. This is something of a midpoint; it’s meatier and less obvious than Moments if not as much of a standout as Built to Stick.
The Heath brothers tend to be best when they borrow ideas and expand upon them, and here they borrow their central metaphor of behavior as a rider on an elephant from Jonathan Haidt. “Haidt said that our emotional side is an Elephant, and our rational side is its Rider. The Rider, perched atop the Elephant, holds the reins and seems to be the leader. The Rider’s control is precarious, though, because he’s so tiny relative to the Elephant. Anytime the 6-ton Elephant disagrees with the direction, the Rider is going to lose. He’s completely overmatched”
It’s effective, and they do a fine job of explaining how change can only be sustained if the environment is conducive to change (the path has been shaped) and there are allowances for habit (the elephant has been motivated.) The examples are interesting and the Heaths make an excellent and entertaining case for their point.