Switch - how to change things when change is hard - for open source contributors

This book has been sitting on my desk for so long precisely so I make sure I share my enthusiasm for it with more of you. I've been suggesting this book to several friends and so far the feedback from them was also overwhelmingly positive.

While Chip and Dan Heath do not deal much with software development and absolutely not open source in this book, I'd boldly say this is one of the greatest books I've read for those who want to get something done in an open source development environment. There are countless great stories in this book from all areas of life. From getting children with cancer to take their pills through saving species to attracting more customers to your carwash, it deals with situations when you seemingly don't have any directing power over the change you want to see in behavior/direction from your peers. You are not a boss, you don't pay these people, maybe you don't even know who they are, but you want to see a positive change happen.

Check out this video for example with a short summary of one of the tips that feels very relevant to the state of Drupal 8:

The authors built the structure of this book around a metaphor from University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt, saying our emotional side is an Elephant and our rational side is its Rider. The whole book is structured around tips to direct the rider (eg. provide specific guidance for the critical moves), motivate the elephant (eg. shrink the change or show how its already underway) and shape the path (eg. build habits to get there in a natural way).

I'd highly recommend Switch - how to change things when change is hard to anybody who want to get something done in an open source community and would not plan to go it alone.


Gábor Hojtsy's picture

I also recently read Daniel H. Pink's Drive which puts motivation under scrutiny. This is also a great resource to understand why/how open source works and when it fails it may help identify which critical success factors may not work. The framework for the book is exploring how Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose in concert contribute to enjoying and being successful in our work.

mtift's picture

Thanks for the recommendation, Gábor. I just reserved a copy from my library. My wife and I have had a lot of success focusing on the positive with our kids, so I'm very interested to read what they have to say and how it might relate to open source development.

Thomas Svenson's picture

I read this book about two years ago and agree completely it is a very good read. The elephant and rider are excellent to illustrate the problems the book covers. Surely many of us have quite an hard time stopping our inner elephant when temptations poke for attention in the wrong direction.

As you say, a book highly recommended to read.

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