Shape the Path: Often we see people as lazy or disorganized, when in fact they may just be confused by the situation. The authors distinguish between this people vs. situation dilemma by referring to it as the “Path.” Thus, oftentimes the Elephant is merely confused by the situation, not incapable of making a decision. If you want proof, just think about how you look when you arrive at an airport you’re unfamiliar with. I wander around looking clueless until I ask someone for directions or see a clearly marked Path.
Shape the Path and Tweak the Environment: The “Fundamental Attribution Error” (labeled by Lee Ross from Stanford) “…lies in our inclination to attribute people’s behavior to the way they are rather than to the situation they are in” (p. 180). Amazon did this by creating the 1-Click method for ordering. By eliminating a complicated system, thus clearing the path, things improved. I now post examples of grade “A” papers on my webpage for students to “show them the path,” and the quality of their papers has improve immensely. If you’ve ever moved your alarm clock to the other side of the room so you couldn’t hit snooze; laid out your gym clothes the night before you get up; or created a routine to walk to work rather than ride—then you’ve “tweaked your environment” to force yourself to take a certain Path.