Changing When Change is Hard

"Find a bright spot and clone it. That’s the first step to fixing everything from addiction to corporate malaise to malnutrition."


In this month's edition of Fast Company there is an adaptation from the yet-to-be released book, Switch: How to Change things when Change is Hard, due out in mid-February. The premise seems simple:

"Find a bright spot and clone it. That’s the first step to fixing everything from addiction to corporate malaise to malnutrition. A problem may look hopelessly complex. But there’s a game plan that can yield movement on even the toughest issues. And it starts with locating a bright spot – a ray of hope".

Within each of us there is an intrinsic desire to focus on the problems at hand in times of change. The example used in the article is of malnutrition among youth in Vietnam. The common conclusions of human development studies focused on the traditional foes: poor sanitation, universal poverty, and lack of clean drinking water. But when Jerry Sternin, employee of Save the Children, arrived in Vietnam, he focused on the bright spots in the community, the children that were extremely impoverished, yet not malnourished. What he found was subtle differences in the approach to diets among these families, both in the actual food they ate and when they ate it. After a strategic roll-out of his findings among villagers, six months later, 65% of the kids were better nourished – and they remained that way.

Surely there are countless case studies in Switch that support this approach to the complex process of change.  For a credit union industry likely to see continued change in 2010, the lesson is relevant. Instead of focusing on problems like NCUSIF assessments, cut-backs on non-interest income, and the return of competition, take time to focus on what's going really well within these problem areas; then replicate it. Finding bright spots in your organization may just get you through the changes that last year, seemed insurmountable.


Jan. 27, 2010


  • Attitudes are contagious. The book Switch is already on my wish list. It's a rare find to read a book whose virtual thread is to seek out good then spread it around. There is one letter difference between bitter and better. For my vocabulary, character and attitude, I like the 'e' version far more than the 'i'. Thanks for the article and reminder that good wins.
  • I am in charge of managing a merger and thought this article in Fast Company was a great resource. Both creidt unions have strengths and we are going to try to build off both. It is worth the time to read.
    Bob Edmondson
  • Great insight! This is also another area where collaberation is key. If one particular CU doesn't have many "bright spots" find some in others and then make them your own. This is certainly a trying time for our industry but it can also be an opportunity to look beyond the status quo.