I read about behavioral scientist and Wharton professor Dr. Katy Milkman in the University of Pennsylvania’s alumni magazine, The Pennsylvania Gazette. The article written by Joann Greco piqued my interest about Milkman’s book, How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be so much that I read it as soon as it arrived.
The organization of Dr. Milkman’s book is as efficient as the recommendations that she makes to assist people in changing for the better. The first part of the book consists of seven chapters that address each of the stumbling blocks that people regularly face when they want to make a change in their lives.
In each of these chapters, Professor Milkman cites real-world examples of situations faced by her clients, the people she knows, or herself. She discusses the science enabling the behavioral change and provides a section of takeaways at the end of each chapter for the reader to focus on.
The seven stumbling blocks addressed by Dr. Milkman in the seven chapters are:
- Getting started
Her easy-to-read writing style combined with the examples and explanations of the research allowed me to reflect on the instances in which I had encountered similar roadblocks.
Each chapter also has a header for the name or description of the research that backs a solution or solutions to the problem. In chapter one, it’s “The Fresh Start Effect.” In chapter two, it’s “Just a Spoonful of Sugar,” “Temptation Bundling,” “Making Work Fun,” and “What’s Possible With Buy-In.” The easy-to-remember titles may not be the specific title of the research, but they are helpful to associate with a solution to that type of stumbling block.
It’s helpful to know that Professor Milkman and her Penn colleague, Dr. Angela Duckworth (author of Grit), co-lead the Behavior Change for Good Initiative at Penn. The initiative is backed by more than 100 leading academics from around the world who are experts in many areas including economics, medicine, law, psychology, sociology, neuroscience, and computer science. Some of the examples cited in the chapters relate to issues that the initiative and its researchers were asked to solve.
I enjoyed How to Change so much, I’ve ordered a few copies for close friends and relatives. Readers of this book can apply these concepts to personal changes and organizational changes.
My favorite quote on the book’s jacket comes from bestselling author Daniel Pink: “This book is like having the smartest friend in the world whispering in your ear. You’ll want to send Katy Milkman a thank-you note.”
I agree with Mr. Pink. I’ll add to his recommendation that as you might expect from an accomplished academic like Professor Milkman, there’s a nicely referenced section of footnotes at the back of the book for anyone who wants a little deeper dive on the topics. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.