The Power of Moments by Chip & Dan Heath: Summary20 min read

Categories Business, Personal growthPosted on

The Book in Three Sentences

Defining moments shape our lives.

We don’t have to wait to make them happen.

We can create them.

The Five Big Ideas

When we recall an experience, we tend to remember flagship moments: the peaks, the pits, and the transitions.

A defining moment is a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful.

Defining moments are created from one or more of the following elements: (1) Elevation; (2) Insight; (3) Pride; (4) Connection.

If you’re struggling to make a transition, create a defining moment that draws a dividing line between Old You and New You.

Transitions should be marked, milestones commemorated, and pits filled.

The Power of Moments Summary

Chapter 1: Defining Moments

The Power of Moments is about why certain brief experiences can jolt us and elevate us and change us—and how we can learn to create such extraordinary moments in our life and work.

Research has found that in recalling an experience, we ignore most of what happened and focus instead on a few particular moments.

When people assess an experience, they tend to forget or ignore its length—a phenomenon called “duration neglect.” Instead, they seem to rate the experience based on two key moments: (1) the best or worst moment, known as the “peak”; and (2) the ending. Psychologists call it the “peak-end rule.”

What’s indisputable is that when we assess our experiences, we don’t average our minute-by-minute sensations. Rather, we tend to remember flagship moments: the peaks, the pits, and the transitions.

The surprise about great service experiences is that they are mostly forgettable and occasionally remarkable.

Some moments are vastly more meaningful than others.

A defining moment is a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful.

In their research, Chip & Dan Heath have found that defining moments are created from one or more of the following four elements:

Elevation. (1) Boost sensory appeal; (2) Raise the stakes; (3) Break the script

Insight. (1) Trip over the truth; (2) Stretch for insight

Pride. (1) Recognize others; (2) Multiply milestones; (3) Practice courage)

Connection. (1) Create shared meaning; (2) Deepen ties; (3) Make moments matter

Defining moments possess at least one of the four elements above, but they need not have all four.

Some powerful defining moments contain all four elements.

Chapter 2: Thinking in Moments            

If you’re struggling to make a transition, create a defining moment that draws a dividing line between Old You and New You.               

Pits are the opposite of peaks. They are negative defining moments—moments of hardship or pain or anxiety.               

Transitions should be marked, milestones commemorated, and pits filled.               

Three situations constitute natural defining moments and deserve our attention: (1) transitions; (2) milestones; and (3) pits.              

Chapter 3: Build Peaks               

In many customer relationships, the moments most likely to be remembered are pits.               

“Mostly forgettable” is actually a desirable state in many businesses. It means nothing went wrong. You got what you expected.               

When creating a memorable customer experience, you first need to fill the pits. That, in turn, frees you up to focus on the second stage: creating the moments that will make the experience “occasionally remarkable.”               

Fill pits, then build peaks.

Many business leaders never pivot to that second stage. Instead, having filled the pits in their service, they scramble to pave the potholes—the minor problems and annoyances. It’s as though the leaders aspire to create a complaint-free service rather than an extraordinary one.               

Research suggests that when customers contact you because they’ve had problems with your product or service, you should focus on defense—that is, you should focus on efficiency and not try to “delight” them.

In customer service, you’ll earn about 9 times more revenue if you elevate the positives (e.g. move a customer’s rating from a 4 to a 5), that you will eliminate the negatives (e.g. move a customer’s rating from a 3 to a 4).

To create fans, you need the remarkable, and that requires peaks. Peaks don’t emerge naturally. They must be built.               

To elevate a moment, do three things: First, boost sensory appeal. Second, raise the stakes. Third, break the script. (Breaking the script means to violate expectations about an experience) Moments of elevation need not have all three elements but most have at least two.

Boosting sensory appeal is about “turning up the volume” on reality.

To raise the stakes is to add an element of productive pressure: a competition, a game, a performance, a deadline, a public commitment.

One simple diagnostic to gauge whether you’ve transcended the ordinary is if people feel the need to pull out their cameras.               

Our instinct to capture a moment says: I want to remember this. That’s a moment of elevation.               

Beware the soul-sucking force of “reasonableness.” Otherwise, you risk deflating your peaks.               

Chapter 4: Break the Script

To break the script is to defy people’s expectations of how an experience will unfold.

The other difference between “breaking the script” and generic surprise is that the former forces us to think about the script.

To break the script, we’ve first got to understand the script.               

A study of hotel reviews on TripAdvisor found that, when guests reported experiencing a “delightful surprise,” an astonishing 94% of them expressed an unconditional willingness to recommend the hotel, compared with only 60% of guests who were “very satisfied.”

How do you break the script consistently enough that it matters—but not so consistently that customers adapt to it? One solution is to introduce a bit of randomness.               

Pret A Manger employees are allowed to give away a certain number of hot drinks and food items every week.               

When loyal customers were on a flight with a funny flight safety announcement, they flew one half-flight more over the next year than did similar customers who hadn’t heard one.               

The analytics group calculated that if Southwest could double the number of customers hearing a funny flight safety announcement, the result would be more than $140 million in revenue. That’s more than the cost of two 737s.               

Executives who are leading change should be deliberate about creating peaks that demarcate the shift from the “old way” to the “new way.”

If you ask older people about their most vivid memories, research shows, they tend to be drawn disproportionately from this same period, roughly ages 15 to 30. Psychologists call this phenomenon the “reminiscence bump.”               

For those anxious about facing a future that’s less memorable than the past, Chip and Dan’s advice is to honor the old saw, “Variety is the spice of life.” But notice that it does not say, “Variety is the entrée of life.”               

Learn to recognize your own scripts. Play with them, poke at them, disrupt them.

Moments of elevation are experiences that rise above the routine. They make us feel engaged, joyful, amazed, motivated.

Chapter 5: Trip Over the Truth

When you have a sudden realization, one that you didn’t see coming, and one that you know viscerally is right, you’ve tripped over the truth. It’s a defining moment that in an instant can change the way you see the world.               

The “aha!” moment should always happen in the minds of the audience.               

This three-part recipe—a (1) clear insight (2) compressed in time and (3) discovered by the audience itself—provides a blueprint for us when we want people to confront uncomfortable truths.               

You can’t appreciate the solution until you appreciate the problem. So when Chip and Dan write about “tripping over the truth,” they mean the truth about a problem or harm. That’s what sparks sudden insight.               

Chapter 6: Stretch for Insight               

Research suggests that reflecting or ruminating on our thoughts and feelings is an ineffective way to achieve true understanding. Studying our own behavior is more fruitful.               

Action leads to insight more often than insight leads to action.

Barbara Fredrickson, one of the researchers who pioneered the “peak-end principle,” argued that the reason we overweight peaks in memory is that they serve as a kind of psychic price tag. They tell us, in essence, this is what it could cost you to endure that experience again.               

When students get their paperback, full of corrections and suggestions, their natural reaction might be defensiveness or even mistrust. The teacher has never liked me. But the wise criticism note carries a different message. It says, I know you’re capable of great things if you’ll just put in the work. The marked-up essay is not a personal judgment. It’s a push to stretch.

Mentorship in two sentences: “I have high expectations for you and I know you can meet them. So try this new challenge and if you fail, I’ll help you recover.”                

A mentor’s push leads to a stretch, which creates a moment of self-insight.               

Moments of insight deliver realizations and transformations. They need not be serendipitous. To deliver moments of insight for others, we can lead them to “trip over the truth,” which means sparking a realization that packs an emotional wallop.               

To produce moments of self-insight, we need to stretch: placing ourselves in new situations that expose us to the risk of failure.

Mentors can help us stretch further than we thought we could, and in the process, they can spark defining moments.               

The formula for mentorship that leads to self-insight: High standards + assurance + direction + support.               

Expecting our mentees to stretch requires us to overcome our natural instinct to protect the people we care about from risk. To insulate them.               

The promise of stretching is not success, it’s learning.               

Moments of elevation lift us above the everyday. Moments of insight spark discoveries about our world and ourselves. Moments of pride capture us at our best—showing courage, earning recognition, conquering challenges.    

Chapter 7: Recognize Others      

Of all the ways we can create moments of pride for others, the simplest is to offer them recognition.

Across the studies, which spanned 46 years, only one factor was cited every time as among the top two motivators: “full appreciation of work done.”         

Most recognition should be personal, not programmatic.               

A classic paper on recognition by Fred Luthans and Alexander D. Stajkovic emphasizes that effective recognition makes the employee feel noticed for what they’ve done. Managers are saying, “I saw what you did and I appreciate it.”               

In 2014, DonorsChoose analyzed historical data and discovered that donors who opt to receive thank-you letters will make larger donations the next year. The letters build commitment.

Researchers have found that if you practice gratitude, you feel a rush of happiness afterward—in fact, it’s one of the most pronounced spikes that have been found in any positive psychology intervention. Better yet, researchers say, this feeling lasts.

Chapter 8: Multiply Milestones             

To identify milestones, ask yourself: What’s inherently motivating? What would be worth celebrating that might only take a few weeks or months of work? What’s a hidden accomplishment that is worth surfacing and celebrating?

Hitting a milestone sparks pride. It should also spark a celebration—a moment of elevation. (Don’t forget that milestones, along with pits and transitions, are three natural defining moments that deserve extra attention.) Milestones deserve peaks.               

The desire to hit milestones elicits a concerted final push of effort.

What milestones do is compel us to make that push, because (a) they’re within our grasp, and (b) we’ve chosen them precisely because they’re worth reaching for.               

We’re not stuck with just one finish line. By multiplying milestones, we transform a long, amorphous race into one with many intermediate “finish lines.” As we push through each one, we experience a burst of pride as well as a jolt of energy to charge toward the next one.                

Chapter 9: Practice Courage               

Managing fear—the goal of exposure therapy—is a critical part of courage.               

The psychologist Peter Gollwitzer has studied the way this preloading affects our behavior. His research shows that when people make advance mental commitments—if X happens, then I will do Y—they are substantially more likely to act in support of their goals than people who lack those mental plans.

It is hard to be courageous, but it’s easier when you’ve practiced, and when you stand up, others will join you.               

Moments of pride commemorate people’s achievements. We feel our chest puff out and our chin lift.               

There are three practical principles we can use to create more moments of pride: (1) Recognize others; (2) Multiply meaningful milestones; (3) Practice courage. The first principle creates defining moments for others; the latter two allow us to create defining moments for ourselves.               

We dramatically underinvest in recognition. Carolyn Wiley found that 80% of supervisors say they frequently express appreciation, while less than 20% of employees agree.              

Recognition is characterized by a disjunction: A small investment of effort yields a huge reward for the recipient.               

To create moments of pride for ourselves, we should multiply meaningful milestones—reframing a long journey so that it features many “finish lines.”

We can surface milestones that otherwise go unnoticed.               

Number-heavy organizational goals are fine as tools of accountability, but smart leaders surface more motivational milestones en route to the target.  

Moments, when we display courage, make us proud. We never know when courage will be demanded, but we can practice to ensure we’re ready.

Practicing courage lets us “preload” our responses.               

Courage is contagious; our moments of action can be a defining moment for others.

Chapter 10: Create Shared Meaning

For groups, defining moments arise when we create shared meaning—highlighting the mission that binds us together and supersedes our differences. We are made to feel united.               

Researcher Robert Provine found that laughter was 30 times more common in social settings than private ones.               

If you want to be part of a group that bonds like cement, take on a really demanding task that’s deeply meaningful. All of you will remember it for the rest of your lives.

To create moments of connection, we can bring people together for a synchronizing moment. We can invite them to share in a purposeful struggle. The final strategy centers on connecting them to a larger sense of meaning.               

Purpose is defined as the sense that you are contributing to others, that your work has broader meaning. Passion is the feeling of excitement or enthusiasm you have for your work.            

People who were passionate about their jobs—who expressed high levels of excitement about their work—were still poor performers if they lacked a sense of purpose.               

When it comes to performance, purpose trumps passion.               

Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski believes that purpose isn’t discovered, it’s cultivated.

On one study by Adam Grant of Wharton, lifeguards voluntarily signed up for 43% more hours of work after reading four stories about other lifeguards rescuing drowning swimmers. The stories had increased their interest in the work.               

When radiologists were shown photos of the patients whose X-rays they were scanning, they increased both the raw number and the accuracy of their scans. When nurses, assembling surgical kits, met a caregiver who would use the kits, they worked 64% longer than a control group and made 15% fewer errors. Connecting to meaning matters.

Sometimes it’s useful to keep asking, “Why?” Why do you do what you do? It might take several “Whys” to reach the meaning. You know you’re finished when you reach the contribution.

When you understand the ultimate contribution you’re making, it allows you to transcend the task list.

Chapter 11: Deepen Ties               

Our relationships are stronger when we perceive that our partners are responsive to us.               

Responsiveness encompasses three things:

Understanding: My partner knows how I see myself and what is important to me.

Validation: My partner respects who I am and what I want.

Caring: My partner takes active and supportive steps in helping me meet my needs.

Studies show that responsive treatment leads infants to feel secure and children to feel supported; it makes people more satisfied with their friends; and it brings couples closer together.    

The Gallup organization has developed a set of questions to assess employees’ satisfaction at work. They discovered that the six most revealing questions are as follows:               

Do I know what is expected of me at work?

Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?

Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

Moments of connection bond us with others. We feel warmth, unity, empathy, validation.               

To spark moments of connection for groups, we must create shared meaning. That can be accomplished by three strategies:

Creating a synchronized moment

Inviting shared struggle

Connecting to meaning

Groups bond when they struggle together. People will welcome a struggle when it’s their choice to participate, when they’re given autonomy to work, and when the mission is meaningful.               

“Connecting to meaning” reconnects people with the purpose of their efforts. That’s motivating and encourages “above and beyond” work.

In individual relationships, we believe that relationships grow closer with time. But that’s not the whole story. Sometimes long relationships reach plateaus. And with the right moment, relationships can deepen quickly.               

According to the psychologist Harry Reis, what deepens individual relationships is “responsiveness”: mutual understanding, validation, and caring.    

Responsiveness coupled with openness leads to intimacy. It happens via “turn-taking.”               

Chapter 12: Making Moments Matter               

What follows are five recommendations for finding great good in great suffering:

Look for small peaks

Celebrate and honor relationships

Acknowledge your strength              

Identify new possibilities

Look for spiritual insight

Other Books by Chip & Dan Heath

Switch: How to Change When Change Is Hard

Recommended Reading

If you like The Power of Moments, you may also enjoy the following books:

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pink

Buy this book

Print | Hardcover | Audiobook

error: Right click disabled