Jack Covert Selects

The Change Book: How Things Happen by Michael Krogerus & Roman Tschppeler

January 15, 2015


Krogerus and Tschäppeler's tiny and elegantly-designed book has a simple message: change.

The Change Book: How Things Happen by Michael Krogerus & Roman Tschäppeler, W.W. Norton & Company, 176 pages, $17.95, Hardcover, January 2015, ISBN 9780393240368

Every now and then a certain book just calls to me from among a crowded stack or shelf. “Pick me up,” says the book, “don’t look at those other books. Pick me.” This very thing happened to me with The Change Book by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler. The book is tiny, but its simple and elegant design and message promise great engagement for the book’s readers. That message is quite simply: change.

More specifically, the book looks at how and why change happens, and (in a very literal sense) what change looks like. While The Change Book’s gist is obvious, and legions of authors have already taken the subject on from micro- to macro-scale, Krogerus and Tschäppeler use a clever format to set the book apart from its peers. Rather than exploring the processes of how change happen in specific terms, the duo takes as broad a look as possible, acknowledging in the book’s foreword that The Change Book is for the layman.

You have to limit yourself to explain something. So don’t expect academic tracts or state-of-the-art infographics. Instead, look forward to surprisingly simple explanations of our inexplicable world—and to having some of your preconceived ideas radically challenged.

The book’s sequencing groups change diagrams into four categories that go from the collective and personal present—what changes our known worlds have already experienced—to the personal and collective future, or those changes that we as individuals and as a global civilization are facing in on the horizon. Krogerus and Tschäppeler make a valuable distinction between changes for individuals and changes for societies, a decision that helps keep The Change Book’s practical applicability in sight.

Want to change yourself? They’ve got two dozen diagrams to help you with the how and why. Take this classic: Why we let ourselves get distracted. This universal problem is answered with a brief synopsis of why we get distracted and a list of easy-to-comprehend suggestions for helping us wean off of common distractions that corrupt productivity. Finally, we get the visual element: a very simple demonstration of the finite nature of time and an equally simple way to rate daily tasks by importance with the goal of permitting each task its appropriate percentage of your time.

If you want to understand bigger change, those broader, more societal changes are diagrammed as well. Among these big changes, The Change Book looks at the current debate over the Earth’s climate. Krogerus and Tschäppeler’s logic is simple, true, but it’s the kind of logic that might help those of a less-than-scientific mind understand exactly the implications of voting one way or another. The authors cite two key questions as a foundation: “Are we facing a man-made catastrophe?” and “Should we do something about it?” They then map action versus inaction onto the possible realities—”catastrophe” or “no catastrophe.” The resulting visualization helps to demonstrate the stark difference between the different “wrongs” that our global society might face. As they show: if we guess there is no catastrophe and we’re wrong, life as we know it will face serious disaster. If we guess there is a catastrophe and we’re wrong, the consequences are not the same; they might even turn out to be a boon to our collective economies and scientific communities.

The Change Book’s application is not one that’s easy to pinpoint. The book’s contents and format are such that you as a reader might find only half of the topics to be of immediate use. But the overall idea behind the book is one that is eternal, and it is one we will find ourselves coming back to again and again, as long as we retain the capacity for self-awareness. Change happens whether we motivate it or not. Understanding change, even on a superficial level, is the first step to having anything akin to control over its direction.


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