Dan & Chip Heath wrote a book that I love: “Made to Stick”.

It is a pleasure to read. It is very informative. It is science-based.
Moreover, it is congruent: the way the book is written and organized reflects what the authors preach.
That, my friends, is a very rare thing.
The insights contained in the book are one of the cornerstones of my Persuasive Communication workshop.

Now there is even more exciting news: Dan & Chip Heath discovered Solution-Focus!!
They wrote a new book about Solution-Focused practices and Positive Deviance – the book is called Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard and goes on sale on February 16.

Fastcompany.com published some excerpts.

Here is one, introducing Solution-Focus Therapy:

Consider the story of school counselor John Murphy and one of his students in Covington, Kentucky. Bobby was a ninth grader who was constantly late for class, rarely did his work, was disruptive, and sometimes made loud threats to other kids in the hallways. Bobby’s home life was just as chaotic; he’d been shuffled in and out of foster homes and special facilities for kids with behavioral problems.

In a traditional counseling session, the therapist digs around for explanations — why are the patients acting the way they are? But Murphy was no traditional therapist. He practiced something called Solutions-Focused Brief Therapy. During his sessions with Bobby, he ignored the child’s problems and focused instead on how to remedy them. Here’s a brief exchange from one of their sessions. Notice how Murphy starts by trying to find a bright spot.

Murphy: Tell me about the times at school when you don’t get in trouble as much.
Bobby: I never get in trouble, well, not a lot, in Ms. Smith’s class.
Murphy: What’s different about Ms. Smith’s class?
Bobby: I don’t know, she’s nicer. We get along great.
Murphy: What exactly does she do that’s nicer?

Murphy wasn’t content with Bobby’s vague conclusion that Ms. Smith is “nicer.” He kept probing until Bobby identified that Ms. Smith always greeted him as soon as he walked into class. (Other teachers, understandably, avoided him.) She gave him easier work, which she knew he could complete. (Bobby is also learning disabled.) And whenever the class started working on an assignment, she’d check with Bobby to make sure he understood the instructions.

Ms. Smith’s class was a bright spot, and as we’ve seen, anytime you have a bright spot, your mission is to clone it. Using Ms. Smith’s class as a model, Murphy gave Bobby’s other teachers very practical tips about how to deal with him: Greet Bobby at the door. Make sure he’s assigned work he can do. Check to make sure he understands the instructions.

Over the next three months, Bobby’s rate of being sent to the principal’s office for a major infraction decreased by 80%. He also made striking progress on day-to-day behavior. Before solutions-focused therapy, his teachers typically rated his performance as acceptable in only one or two out of six class periods per day. After solutions-focused therapy, he was rated as acceptable in four or five of the six periods. Bobby is still not a model student. But he’s a lot better.

Read more excerpts here!!

I can’t wait to get the book!

h/t: Paul Jackson

5 thoughts on “Switch: don’t solve problems, copy success!

  1. I read “Switch” and it was awesome. I’m so glad that the Heath’s published some articles on Fast Company about it as that lead me to learning about Solutions Focused Coaching and Therapy and what I’ve learned has helped me improve my life.

  2. Rodney,
    thanks for your comment! :))
    “Switch” is a great book, I agree!!

    Two things:
    – re SF self-help: nothing has been published BUT as I was talking with other colleagues it would be kind of a contradiction; we base SF practice on the interaction and lacking that one essential element of SF is not present
    – re website: big news are coming, and the website will undergo a major revam next month to reflect these changes – I thought it would be this month, but some details still need to be worked out; so hang in there, and thanks again for following :))

  3. Paolo,

    I’m not an expert of course, however, I think that it must be possible for one to use SF for self-help. I’m a perfect case in point. I use the principles to create my own solutions. It’s not exactly the same as being with a coach of course but I use the same concepts. I find the desired future and it’s positive consequences. I scale how close I am to this future. I identify specific behaviors to move me higher up the scale. I find past experiences of using these behaviors and examine how I was able to produce results in the past.

    Isn’t doing all this Solutions Focus?


  4. Hi Rodney!

    Yes, doing all that IS Solution-Focused!!
    And I am very impressed by how thoroughly you follow the process: what you describe is exactly the way a SF practitioner would go!!
    I am very glad it works for you and it helps finding your own solutions.

    You are right.
    There is room for SF self-help: and, as you say, you are a perfect case in point!
    I just believe that asking those questions in a conversation greatly enhances the process – asking oneself those questions is effective, being asked those questions is ever more effective.

    Thanks again for your insights,

  5. Paolo,

    I agree that asking the questions in a conversation can be more powerful than when one asks themselves the questions. And since there is so much self-help that doesn’t really help out there I do hope that more Solution Focused therapists and coaches create self-help materials.


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