Focus on the bright spots

When faced with a challenge, we tend to go into problem-solving mode. We focus on those areas that are going the least well, to try and fix the biggest problems first.

In Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath argue that this problem-solving behavior serves us well in many cases, but not when seeking to affect large changes.

In times of change, we are often dealing with a situation where lots of things are probably wrong. With many possible problems to focus on, we can easily become overwhelmed. We spin our wheels trying to decide which problem to tackle and get stuck in decision-paralysis.

Instead of looking at the biggest problems, the brothers Heath argue, you should “look for the bright spots”. Look for people, processes or techniques that are being applied with success already. Find what is already working, then try to replicate that success throughout the environment.

Bright spots don’t have to be shining success stories because you may not be able to find those. You’re just looking for situations when things are working better than others. In other words, don’t look for “perfect”, but look for “the best of what’s available.”

In the books, they give various examples of this principle being applied in real life. One great example of this is the story about addressing childhood malnutrition in Vietnam in just 6 months.