The Power of Moments: Why certain experiences have extraordinary impact
“Defining moments shape our lives, but we don’t have to wait for them to happen. We can be the authors of them.” Chip & Dan Heath
What if we could create our own extraordinary memories?
We all remember critical moments in our lives, when we realised which career we wanted (or didn’t want), when we found our life partner, or when we bought our first home. Many of these moments happen spontaneously, but the New York Times best-selling author brothers, Chip and Dan Heath, argue that we can exploit and create moments as memorable as these. And if we do, we can build extraordinary loyalty among customers and staff, and gain much more from our work and personal lives.
The designer of an advanced MRI machine for General Electric was delighted with his new model, until he saw the terrified children approaching the claustrophobic machine and realised that he had to make them want to have a scan. With the hospital, he made the whole room a fun experience, with children happily being photographed in the appliances modelled on pirate ships or space engines. The realisation that it was the experience of the MRI scan that was more important than the machine technology has cut the number of children who need sedation from 80% to 27% and allows the hospital to carry out many more scans in a day than before.
The brothers define moments as ones that are both meaningful and memorable and map out a system for introducing them to organisations:
- Elevation: These are moments that rise above the routine, surprising us and giving us joy. Research suggests that organisations dramatically under-invest in building peaks for customers or staff, choosing instead to fill potholes. To create them, we can:
- Boost the sensory appeal – one example is a special Popsicle Hotline at a hotel in LA. The sheer indulgence of a butler arriving with your lollypop on a silver tray creates a really memorable moment, creating much higher trip advisor scores than far swankier hotels. Pret a Manger employees are empowered to give away free drinks or food to customers they like, making customers and staff feel valued and loyal
- Raise the stakes – instead of a boring lecture, a US college created The Trial of Human Nature. The intensive project for all new students pits them against each other in a real courtroom with important people like the school principal and family in attendance, drawing out many skills and creating an outstandingly memorable experience
- Break the script – Southwest Airlines encourage their employees to make standard flight safety announcements more interesting with humour which data shows increases customer loyalty. Their own research shows loyal customers who hear the announcements spend an extra $140 million on Southwest Airlines flights every year
- Insight: Moments of insight can be transformative. To produce insight moments you can help people “trip over the truth”. If you are selling an idea, you need to get people to see the problem, not just the benefits of your solution. For example, the University of Virginia has developed a course design institute. They ask professors to write down what they want for their dream students, with the answers usually being about hoping they retain a natural interest in their subject. They then ask the professors if their draft syllabus will really deliver that? Or is it just the list of course content broken down into chunks? The often awkward answer is that it doesn’t help at all, leading to a lot more thought into how to really inspire students
- Pride: Moments of pride commemorate people’s achievements. We can use three strategies to deliver pride:
- Recognise others: A small investment of effort yields a huge reward for the recipient – whether that’s a teacher telling a child that they have a beautiful voice, or a sales manager rewarding someone for listening well to customers with a pair of headphones. Fitbit rewards user milestones with awards such as the 747 badge – given for climbing 4,000 steps, the same altitude as a 747, for just the cost of an email
- Multiply meaningful milestones: reframe a long journey so that it features multiple “finish lines.” Hundreds of thousands of people have participated in the Couch to 5K running programme, a very simple idea and achievable goal begun by Josh Clark, and far more effective than the millions spent on trying to get people to vaguely exercise more. The coach to 5k programme respects the power of moments and generates huge pride among participants
- Connection: Moments of connection bond us together. Groups unite when they struggle together toward a meaningful goal
Working out how to develop or magnify important moments like an employee’s first day at work may seem cheesy to some, but wouldn’t we all love to have experiences that stand out from the mundane? Those really special moments that get us telling others about them and that generate the sort of loyalty that money just can’t buy.
About the authors
Chip Heath is a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is the New York Times best-selling co-author (along with his brother, Dan) of three books including Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. Their books have been translated into over 30 languages including Thai, Arabic, and Lithuanian. Chip has consulted with clients ranging from Google and Gap to the American Heart Association.
Dan Heath is a Senior Fellow at Duke University’s CASE centre, which supports social entrepreneurs. At CASE, he founded the Change Academy, a programme designed to boost the impact of social sector leaders. As co-author, Dan and Chip’s books have topped the bestseller lists and Made to Stick was named Best Business Book of the Year. Previously, Dan gained an MBA from Harvard Business School and worked as a researcher and case writer for them. He has a BA from the Plan II Honors Program from the University of Texas.
The brothers’ website includes a number of resources for the Power of Moments including podcasts and a video which you can access after registering.
“The most interesting, immediately actionable book I’ve read in quite a while. I walked away with new ideas for motivating employees, delighting customers, engaging students, and even planning family vacations.” Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author
“Chip and Dan are amazing and impactful story tellers. In The Power of Moments they are able to use stories to display a powerful truth, that we can be more impactful as leaders and as people by recognising and creating more ‘moments’. At Virgin Atlantic, helping our people create such amazing moments for each other and for our customers is a nice new way of articulating an underlying goal of great leadership. This book truly frames that thinking in an easy to understand and engaging way. Perhaps even more importantly, I can see many similar opportunities in my life as a husband, father and member of a community.” Craig Kreeger, CEO, Virgin Atlantic
Author: Chip Heath & Dan Heath