Summary of The power of moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath: In The power of moments, Chip Heath and Dan Heath help readers to create special moments in their daily lives. Most people miss out on moments that could turn into memorable events simply by not paying attention or by lack of audacity. In this book, they offer tips to reveal the true potential of situations that can transform an individual’s life in terms of elevation, insight, pride or connection.
By Chip Heath and Dan Heath, 2018, 368 pages
Full title: The Power of Moments – why certain experiences have extraordinary impact
Chronicle and summary of “The Power of Moments” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Chapter 1: Defining moments
In the first chapter of The power of moments, Chip Heath and Dan Heath introduce the Senior Signing Day set up by Chris Barbic and Donald Karmentz in their school Yes Prem in Houston. It is about celebrating the students’ acceptance into university in a similar way to sporting champions.
To discover and create defining moments is the goal of The power of moments
“We all have defining moments in our lives—meaningful experiences that stand out in our memory. […] These moments seem to be the product of fate or luck or maybe a higher power’s interventions.”
Many of us think that these unforgettable moments happen by chance, but Chip Heath and Dan Heath insist that this is not necessarily the case:
“Defining moments shape our lives, but we don’t have to wait for them to happen. We can be the authors of them.”
Take the example of the Senior Signing Day, created by the founders of Yes Prem for their pupils. The goal of this day is to mark an educational milestone – being accepted into college. It is a turning point is a young person’s life. It remains engraved in their memory.
The Heath brothers, authors of the book The power of moments want to highlight the following:
- Identify what important moments have in common, in other words, what makes an experience “memorable and significant”.
- How to create defining moments
Understand why certain memories remain in our minds
To explain these big moments, Chip Heath and Dan Heath look into how memory works and the “reasons for remembering”. They explain that research has shown that when we look back on an experience, in reality we focus on a few particular moments and ignore most of what happened.
To understand this process, the authors present an experiment in which participants submerged their hands in freezing cold water. The duration of the experiment varied from 60 to 90 seconds. When the participants were asked which experience they would like to repeat, the majority chose the longer period. This illustrates the fact that when we assess an experience, we tend to forget how long it lasted. This phenomenon is known as “duration neglect”. It leads people to base their assessment on two key moments:
- The best or worst moment, known as the peak.
- The end.
Psychology calls this the peak-end rule.
However, according to Chip Heath and Dan Heath, in addition to the peak and end, the transition moments also need to be taken into account, those at the beginning and at the end. Why? Because these moments hold special significance: they are the ones that stay in our minds over time.
The four factors that make up defining moments
According to the authors of The power of moments, important moments depend on one of the following four factors:
- Elevation: “Defining moments rise above the everyday.”
- Insight: These moments instigate deep change.
- Pride: Courage and pride lead to great moments of success that are totally unforgettable.
- Connection: Defining moments are times of sharing and communion between different people (weddings, christenings, etc.). They are therefore profoundly “social”.
Chip Heath and Dan Heath make a point here about how they will use the terms “positive defining moments” and “peaks” interchangeably throughout the book. They will focus on describing positive experiences rather than negative or traumatic moments.
Returning to the four elements mentioned above, it is important to specify that they do not necessarily co-exist. Some defining moments can contain one or two, while others contain all four.
The authors of The power of moments bring up the idea of a treasure chest that each one of us owns. It can take different forms, but it contains the four elements (elevation, insight, connection and pride). They invite the reader to think about the contents of this chest (photos, trophies, letters, etc.) to grasp the feeling linked the idea of passing it on to a loved one.
“This is a book about the power of moments and the wisdom of shaping them.”
Chapter 2: Thinking in “moments”
According to Chip Heath and Dan Heath, we need to pay special attention to certain deserving moments. They take the example of your first day working for a new company. This is not usually counted to be one of the biggest moments in life, but it is an important day.
“We must understand when special moments are needed. We must learn to think in moments, to spot the occasions that are worthy of investment.”
A “catalogue of mandatory big moments” does exist, but the authors remind us that there is nothing natural about it:
“Every last one of them was invented, dreamed up by anonymous authors who wanted to give shape to time. This is what we mean by “thinking in moments”: to recognise where the prose of life needs punctuation.”
Three major phases require punctuation:
Returning to the example of the first day at work in a new company, the authors point out that this is in fact the result of three major transitions (intellectual, social and environmental). That is why it should be a moment of great significance in the life of a new employee. The company John Deere understood this and set up the “First Day Experience”, a sort of on-boarding process for new employees.
Transitions or new starts
“When a life transition lacks a “moment”, it can become formless. We often feel anxious because we don’t know how to act or what rules to apply.”
These moments act like “landmark moments” that symbolise transition, a change from one status to another. There is in fact a “fresh start” theory, explained by Katherine Milkman: it is the case with New Year’s resolutions, whereby we hope to start over as the new year resets.
“If you’re struggling to make a transition, create a defining moment that draws a dividing line between Old You and New You.”
Birthdays are natural milestones, but certain thresholds set in an arbitrary way lead to different feelings, simply because we reach them.
Other milestones appear to be less important. Some companies make it their business: they exist to count the invisible milestones and remind you about them (number of kilometres travelled, number of words read, steps taken, etc.).
Filling the pits
“To think in moments is to be attuned to transitions and milestones as well as to a third type of experience: the pits. Pits are the opposites of peaks. They are negative defining moments – moments of hardship or pain or anxiety. Pits need to be filled.”
While filling in negative periods seems like good sense, turning them into peaks is less obvious. It turns out that fixing a failure or “filling a pit” is good for us.
“Offering to help someone in a difficult time is its own goal and reward.”
Chip Heath and Dan Heath present the example of Doug Dietz, a man who designed MRI machines. Initially focussed solely on the technical aspect, when he started working with children who needed an MRI scan, he realised that he needed to take the experience of his young patients into account to turn a moment of anxiety into an adventure. This is a concrete example of turning a pit into a peak.
Recognise the defining moments
So, for the authors, thinking in moments means:
- Marking transitions,
- Commemorating milestones,
- Filling pits.
They also insist on the necessity of taking other moments into consideration, even if they do not appear to fit into these three categories at first glance. They could well become defining moments. These moments require special attention in order to remain positive.
They give examples for the three categories:
- Transitions: promotions to a new position (between the success and anxiety about the new position, the first day at school, the end of a project, etc.
- Milestones: retirement (between transition and milestone), unheralded achievements (X number of sales, getting employees promoted, for example).
- Pits: negative reviews, bereavement, etc.
At this stage in the book, Chip Heath and Dan Heath propose an exercise they call “The Missed Moments of Retail Banking”. They use the example of banks that miss out on important moments in the lives of their customers. Step by step, they show (transition, milestone and pit), the moments when the banks should have been in contact with their customers to strengthen the relationship.
Chapter 3: Build peaks
The Golding process at Hillsdale High School.
Chip Heath and Dan Heath present a project organised by Greg Jouriles, a social studies teacher, and Susan Bedford, an English teacher, in a California high school. It involved faithfully reproducing a process known as the Golding process after the author of Lord of the Flies, about Human Nature. Their goal was to create a memorable “academic experience” that would break from the everyday and bring their two subjects together. The jury is made up of teachers, the principal of the school and others, and it takes place every year in an actual courthouse. The trial has become a peak in the schooling of the pupils, one that they remember for many years, like an athlete who plays an important game.
Customer satisfaction: the peak to aim for
The authors of The power of moments now take an extremely interesting example: that of companies that are called in to repair a defect or malfunction of some kind. Their intervention comes down to filling a pit. It is supposed to be quickly forgotten. However, they could do more than that. They could turn a pit into a peak.
“First, you 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”.”
The description in stages allows us to better understand the difference between satisfying the needs of a customer and exceeding their expectations. According to a study by Forrester, seeking genuine satisfaction (more than simply filling a pit) will generate a spike in sales.
“We’re not recommending that leaders abandon their efforts to fix big problems. Rather, they should reallocate their attention. There’s nine times more to gain by elevating positive customers than by eliminating negative ones.”
Breaking “reasonable” expectations to achieve peaks
From the previous section, we see that Chip Heath and Dan Heath seek to turn up the volume on the customer experience, to elevate it. They remind us that peaks are based on “elements of elevation, insight, pride and/or connection.”
They give us a recipe to “elevate a moment”:
“First, boost sensory appeal. Second, raise the stakes. Third, break the script (Breaking the script means to violate expectations about an experience – the next chapter is devoted to the concept).” “
For this to work, you need to bring together at least two of the elements mentioned previously.
- The first point refers to everything that could relate to augmented reality: everything has to be look better, taste better, feel better…
- This is what the authors call adding an element of “productive pressure”.
- Finally, the last element means that keeping an open mind will multiply the defining moments
“Beware the soul-sucking force of reasonableness. Otherwise you risk deflating your peaks.”
At this point in The power of moments, the authors remind us that creating defining moments is not as easy as it looks. We often don’t think about this possibility in our daily lives. How about adding something to your routine to transform it, to ignore constraints and false reasoning that we constantly come up with in order to avoid setting up these unforgettable peaks.
Living: the example of Eugene O’Kelly
Chip Heath and Dan Heath talk about the moving memoir written by Eugene O’Kelly – Chasing Daylight. When he learned that he was facing a death sentence because of three brain tumours, Eugene O’Kelly decided to make the most of his last days with his loved ones. He decided to unwind his relationships, to “beautifully resolve them”.
Meaningful encounters and perfect days are how he described the last three months of his life when he decided to make every moment count. Chip Heath and Dan Heath use this to remind us how urgent it is to set up these moments:
“We may have more time to live than he did, but should that be a reason to put them off? This is the great trap of life: one day rolls into the next, and a year goes by, and we still haven’t had that conversation we always meant to have…. It’s not easy to break out of this tendency. It took a terminal illness for Gene O’Kelly to do it. What would it take to motivate you to create a Perfect Moment?”
Chapter 4: Break the script
Surprise and humanity to change the reigning order
For most situations in our daily lives, we have invisible scripts. We know how things are going to go, in broad terms. Breaking this established order will create something different.
“In the last chapter, we saw that creating moments of elevation involves boosting sensory pleasures and raising the stakes. Breaking the script – defying people’s expectations of how an experience will unfold – is the third method.”
This extraordinary event will break the routine by relaying on the surprise effect. However, it is not the surprise that counts, but what it represents.
Using examples from the world of airlines and hospitality, the authors of The power of moments show us that the surprise effect (created when you get a free gift or when the instructions include some humour) has an effect on the behaviour of customers (loyalty, recommendation, etc.) and therefore on the revenue of the company using these methods.
“To increase positive variance is to welcome humanity and spontaneity into the system. And that means […] license to break the script.”
“Peaks spice up our experience. They can enrich high school education (the Trial), and garnish flights (Southwest) and delight children (Joshie’s vacation). In that sense, they are evergreen – they can happen at any time and retain their power of elevation. But don’t forget that peaks can also be used to mark transitions.”
The company VF (a group of brands) understood this point of view. It involved its employees in active and immersive experiences, which led the company to undergo spectacular change. Transforming a classic seminar into a field trip created a “strategic surprise”.
The “reminiscence” bump
Most peaks happen between the ages of 15 and 30. This is what researchers call the “reminiscence” bump”.
“The key to the reminiscence bump is novelty,” said Claudia Hammond in her book “Time Warped”.. “The reason we remember our youth so well is that it is a . . . time for firsts—first sexual relationships, first jobs, first travel without parents, first experience of living away from home, the first time we get much real choice over the way we spend our days.”
The novelty effect also increases our attention (we give less time to something that we already recognise). This has an impact on the shape of the memory we create.
“Novelty even changes our perception of time.”
So, if you know yourself, you will know how to create new defining moments for yourself. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Break the script of your life to create unforgettable memories.
Chip and Dan Heath quote from the book Surprise: “We feel most comfortable when things are certain, but we feel most alive when they’re not.”
Chip Heath and Dan Heath go on to suggest an exercise that intersects the four elements in the book, within the setting of a meeting that has become routine and boring. They take the example of a monthly parish meeting in Texas. Every meeting followed the same pattern. But by introducing the elements of elevation (surprise, stakes, senses), insight (truth, pushing the boundaries…), pride (congratulations, changes) and connection, the meeting transformed into a defining moment that would lead to a transition to a new way of holding future meetings.
This exercise is the opportunity for the authors of The power of moments to introduce the concept of insight.
Moments of insight are opportunities for awareness and change. Some insights are modest, but very meaningful.
Chapter 5: Trip over the truth
Expose the naked truth
To launch this new chapter, Dan Heath and Chip Heath use a somewhat delicate example: open defecation. It is a major sanitary problem and common in villages around the world with insufficient sanitary facilities. However, observers have noted that simply installing latrines is not enough for people to use them. There needs to be more general awareness.
Community-Led Total Sanitation or CLTS was set up for this. This method puts villagers in a situation in which they discover the problem for themselves (the facilitator simply asks questions and the villagers answer, designate, reconsider…): “They didn’t really “see” the truth until they were made to trip over it,” explain the authors.
Sudden and powerful insight
“Tripping over the truth is an insight that packs an emotional wallop. When you have a sudden realisation, 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.”
This awareness is not a question of chance. It is created by a specific situation (the CLTS in the example above). This makes it all the more immediate. As with the example of the company Azure, once the target population seized on the problem, it became urgent to take action.
“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.”
Problems VS Truth
For this method of truth to work, you need to present the problems, not the solution. The solution will appear by itself, by confronting the problems.
“You can’t appreciate the solution until you appreciate the problem. So when we talk about “tripping over the truth”, we mean the truth about a problem or harm. That’s what sparks sudden insight.”
The authors of The power of moments go on to introduce us to the Course Design Institute that offers teachers the opportunity to reconsider their lesson plans to better achieve the goals that they want for their students.
Chapter 6: Stretch for insight
Dan Heath and Chip Heath introduce two opposing examples:
- That a of vet’s assistant who opened her dream bakery only to shut down again two years later when she realised that it wasn’t for her after all.
- And that of a young woman who moved abroad to study despite her fears (and who has lived far from home ever since).
At a given moment, both of these women stepped outside their comfort zone to embark on a new adventure.
“Both women experienced moments of self-insight sparked by “stretching”. To stretch is to place ourselves in situations that expose us to the risk of failure. What may be counter-intuitive is that self-insight rarely comes from staying in our heads. Research suggests that reflecting or ruminating on our thoughts and feelings is an ineffective way to achieve true understanding. Studying our own behaviour is more fruitful.” ”
So, insight is produced through action. Introspection is more synonymous with immobility.
“Self-understanding comes slowly. One of the few ways to accelerate it – to experience more crystallizing moments – is to stretch for insight.”
The psychological cost and support from others
The two authors of The power of moments now move on to the suicide of psychiatric intern’s patient to develop the concept of the “psychic price tag” studied by Barbara Fredrickson:
“…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 would cost you to endure that experience again.”
This example allows them to highlight the role played by other people in moments of insight. The people around us encourage us to do better, to leave our comfort zone.
The wise critic
“Mentors push, mentees stretch.”
In order to stretch, the equation “high standards + assurance” can work as leverage. This is highlighted in the example given by Dan Heath and Chip Heath about grading essays. It is based on the idea of reassuring and encouraging the pupil.
Mentoring leads to better self-understanding
“High standards + assurance is a powerful formula, but ultimately it’s just a statement of expectations. What great mentors do is add two more elements: direction and support.”
In this sub-section, the authors of The power of moments develop the concept of mentoring as guidance towards better self-knowledge. As we already saw, self-understanding allows us to stretch.
Failure and learning
Daring to try something new, to face your fears and those of others may not prevent you from failing.
“The promise of stretching is not success, it’s learning. It’s self-insight. It’s the promise of gleaning the answers to some of the most important and vexing questions of our lives: […] We will never know our reach unless we stretch.”
After a quick summary of the chapter, the authors propose a third exercise in the book The power of moments. Through the example of a Chinese restaurant, they want to lead readers to find solutions to improve the customer experience and thereby create memorable moments.
Chip Heath and Dan Heath introduce the concept of moments of pride:
“Moments of elevation lift us above the everyday. Moments of insight spark discoveries about our world and ourselves. And moments of pride capture us at our best – showing courage, earning recognition, conquering challenges.”
Chapter 7: Recognise others
From the cocoon to the butterfly of light
To introduce this new chapter, Chip Heath and Dan Heath tell us how Kira Sloop went from a person who pretended to sing to a talented singer taking centre stage in every performance at her middle school and high school.
“A few minutes can change a life.”
The story of Kira Sloop is surprisingly common. All it takes is for one teacher to take the time to encourage or praise someone for their talent to be revealed.
“Of all the ways we can create moments of pride for others, the simplest is to offer them recognition.”
The need for recognition
The authors of The power of moments question the principle of recognition.
“While recognition is a universal expectation, it is not a universal practice.”
Unfortunately, in most cases, expectations create a “recognition gap”. It appears that recognition is expected much more often. That is why is has stronger value when it is spontaneous (not in the setting of a ceremony for example). Finally, it has to be about something specific, which is highlighted.
Recognition can take many forms. It can be tangible (gifts of any kind) or intangible (a compliment, a word of recognition during a meeting, etc.), and it must be personalised in order to achieve its goal.
Giving and receiving
Individualised recognition on a large scale is possible, as demonstrated by the company DonorsChoose. As part of its action, schoolchildren who receive donations write thank you letters to their donors.
This is a two-fold vision. It helps the children to become aware of the opportunity they have been given, and at the same time a connection is established between the givers and the receivers. This makes the experience unique and gratifying on both sides.
“The act of facilitating gratitude goes against every recommendation about how to scale,” said Julia Prieto, a vice-president of DonorsChoose who oversees the donor letters. But this is the one thing that people remember about the experience. […] DonorsChoose has created a defining moments factory for its donors.”
From investment to reward
“Expressing gratitude pleases the recipient of the praise, of course, but it can also have a boomerang effect, elevating the spirits of the grateful person.”
DonorsChoose understood this concept, and made it their model. The peak is shared between the person giving and the person receiving. This can be seen in the example given in this sub-section about a student who writes a thank you letter to his mother. The emotion is shared. And this appears to last.
“This disjunction – a small investment that yields a large reward – is the defining feature of recognition.”
Chapter 8: Multiply milestones
Rethink your goals
In chapter 8, Chip Heath and Dan Heath tackle the subject of milestones. To do this, they take the example of a programme called “Couch to 5K” created by Josh Clark. This programme allowed thousands of people (even the most recalcitrant – which is its strength) to get into running.
The authors explain that the “Couch to 5K” programme offers a structure that “respects the power of moments.”
- Commitment to joining the programme is the first milestone: “a personal resolution made public”.
- Running the 5K represents a peak that contains elements of elevation, connection and pride.
Chip Heath and Dan Heath invite us to use this “strategy” in every aspect of life: milestones and the pride that they can lead to when a goal is achieved can multiply defining moments.
Set your own milestones
In his book “Level Up Your Life: how to unlock adventure and happiness by becoming the hero of your own story”, Steve Kamb compares real life with the video games he was addicted to. It allowed him to reconsider his milestones.
“Conquering each level feels good.”
This metaphor helps us to understand the importance of stages: In order to reach a goal, setting achievable milestones is key. Just like levels in a video game, they can push you to go further to reach your objectives.
The idea is that each milestone marks the end of a quest. This leaves good memories and some moments of pride, making it a defining moment.
Remember the road you have travelled
“By using Kamb’s level-up strategy, we multiply the number of motivating milestones we encounter en route to a goal. That’s a forward looking strategy: We’re anticipating moments of pride ahead.”
However, it is also possible to perceive milestones after the fact. This is the case with applications that congratulate you when you walk a certain number of steps, for example. Unfortunately, this practice is not very common, and the authors of The power of moments find this to be regrettable. Marking the progress made by young athletes or in the life of a couple can offer defining moments of pride and connection.
Turn the goal into a fun quest
Chip Heath and Dan Heath look into what stops us from living defining moments that are within everyone’s reach. Their theory relies on the fact the goals seem to be somewhat confined to the working world. They are goals in terms of figures that are not very motivating at a personal level. More importantly, there are no milestones.
“The value of these tools is to hold people accountable for their work. They’re not designed to be intrinsically motivating or to improve the experience of the human beings who are being held accountable.”
Once again, the authors remind us about the importance of milestones: the end goal is not what matters most, but the small intermediate rewards, because they are what help you to hold firm and make progress. It is up to us to find motivating milestones.
Milestones come in many forms.
“Hitting a milestone sparks pride. It should also spark a celebration – a moment of elevation. […] Milestones deserve peaks.”
To illustrate this, the authors give examples such as scout badges, judo belts or passport stamps.. All of these milestones are moments of pride, strong symbols of success or change, and they generally remain unforgettable moments.
Milestones as intermediate goals
“The desire to hit a milestone elicits a concerted final push of effort.”
This observation explains the differences in time for certain thresholds in a marathon. Reaching a milestone allows you to excel, to make a last effort. It is what Cal Newport calls the “obsession with completion”.
“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 are worth reaching for. Milestones define moments that are conquerable and are worth conquering.”
Chip Heath and Dan Heath even talk about “intermediate finish lines” to end this chapter about milestones.
Chapter 9: Practice courage
In this new chapter, the two authors of The power of moments use the example of the anti-segregationist movements in the United States, specifically in Nashville. Marches and sit-ins brought an end to separation between Blacks and Whites, initially in dining areas.
“It was a victory built on courage—the courage of a group of students who were willing to face humiliation, injury, and incarceration to protest immoral treatment. […] What’s less well-known about this story is that the demonstrators didn’t just show courage. They practised it. They rehearsed it.”
In fact, before they began taking part in protests, the students trained with a Methodist pastor named James Lawson. They learned the techniques of passive resistance and organised themselves into a collective. They were prepared to face all eventualities. Being courageous is just that: mastering fear. The authors quote Mark Twain who said that “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
Learn and practice
The main problem with moments of courage is that they tend to happen without warning and they do not last over time.
“You can’t manufacture “moments of courage”. But in this chapter we’ll see that you can practice courage so that, when the moment demands it, you’ll be ready.”
Soldiers receive training on how to face the most dangerous situations. It allows them to achieve a high level of confidence, without denying the existence of the danger. The method relies on “gradual and graduated practice”. Similar to exposure theory, it involves increasing exposure to real or perceived danger little by little and step by step.
Managing fear – the goal of exposure therapy – is a critical part of courage. But courage isn’t just suppressed fear. It’s also the knowledge of how to act in the moment.
Dan Heath and Chip Heath talk about mental preparation as a form of courage. When you can program your reactions in advance, you are prepared to use them in a moment of fear. They discuss the concept of “implementation intentions” developed by Peter Gollwitzer.
“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. […] The success rate is striking.” “
Make a link between courage and ethics
This perception of courage as the result of learning questions the link between courage and ethics. Mary Gentile looked into the question of what is the right thing to do. According to her, “ethics education should focus not on WHAT is the right thing to do? but rather on HOW can I get the right thing done?”. She set up a method based on the same principles as Lawson: Practice being in different situations and learn the different behaviours that are appropriate to that situation.
Understand that “courage is contagious”.
Training how to react in upsetting or dangerous situations is a way of acquiring experience, of moving from theory to practice.
“Practice quiets the anxiety that can cloud our mind in a tough moment. When we lack practice, our good intentions often falter.” “
Taking the example of someone refusing to take drugs, the authors of The power of moments also emphasize the fact that showing courage has a collective impact:
“An act of courage can bolster the resolve of others.”
Another example backs up this idea: observing slides that are different colours. If just one member of the group upholds their own vision, then others are encouraged to do the same. They dare to speak up and say what colour they can see.
“It is hard to be courageous, but it’s easier when you’ve practised, and when you stand up, others will join you.” ”
After a brief summary of the chapter, it is time to move on to the fourth exercise in the book. It involves a meeting during which a manager who is not well liked admits his faults to his colleagues and promises to change.
This example allows Dan Heath and Chip Heath to introduce moments of connection:
“…they are also social moments. They’re more memorable because others are present. Moments of connection deepen our relationships with others.” “
Chapter 10: Create shared meaning
Collective and united engagement
The Sharp HealthCare Group runs a number of hospitals, but customer satisfaction could do with improvement. When her father was hospitalised, Sonia Rhodes, one of the directors of Sharp saw what was not working and passed this information on. This led to a gigantic seminar that brought together all the staff at Sharp to present the new objectives of the group. They were to improve the experience of patients and caregivers and be the best healthcare network.
Including all the staff in this new vision, seeking their expertise or observations as part of “action teams” profoundly transformed the philosophy of the group and employee engagement.
“…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.”
This strategy relies on three major elements highlighted by Chip Heath and Dan Heath:
- Create a synchronised moment;
- Encourage a shared struggle;
- Attach meaning.
Researcher Robert Provine “found that laughter was 30 times more common in social settings than private ones. It’s a social reaction. “Laughter is more about relationships than humor,” Provine concluded. We laugh to tie the group together. Our laughter says, I’m with you. I’m part of your group.”
The authors of The power of moments analyse laughter as a kind of “social sonar”.It confirms we are part of a group and can hold attention. It is a form of collective synchronisation
“… a big moment needs to be shared in person. (No one dials in to a wedding or graduation, after all.) The presence of others turns abstract ideas into social reality.”
We’re in it together
Chip Heath and Dan Heath highlight several rites of passages (religious or professional). They all have one thing in common – the ideal of struggle.
“If a group of people develops a bond quickly, chances are its members have been struggling together.”
Hazing is a good example of this kind of ritual, but the most important thing is the meaning attached to each of the rituals:
“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. “
Shared meaning and a shared goal
The authors of The power of moments now turn to the feeling of meaningfulness that we attach to our actions. They look at a study by Morten Hansen into the role of meaning in the workplace:
“In his research, Hansen also explored the distinction between purpose and passion 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 about your work.”
According to the study, purpose takes precedence over passion: the latter is personal and intimate, but the former can bring a group together. This naturally leads us to wonder about how to discover our purpose. According to Amy Wrzesniewski, purpose is not something to be discover, but something that is “cultivated”.
“Purpose can be cultivated in a moment of insight and connection.”
To remember our goals, it is important to remember the “why”, to connect with the meaning of our actions. Sharing this with a group of peers, for example, has the power to further strengthen these goals.
Chip Heath and Dan Heath now introduce the concept of contribution: this involves understanding your role in achieving your purpose. It is the ultimate goal that encompasses all the milestones covered to reach it (a janitor in a hospital cleans the rooms because it is his “job”, but also because he makes the rooms more sanitary for the patients and this leads to customer satisfaction).
“When you understand the ultimate contribution you’re making, it allows you to transcend the task list […] That’s a moment of shared meaning. It instils not the pride of individual accomplishment, but the profound sense of connection that comes from subordinating ourselves to a greater mission.”
Chapter 11: Deepen ties
Home visits for successful schooling
In this new sub-section, we look at a programme set up in a school in Washington, one that was considered to be the worst in the district. This programme was deployed by the Flamboyan Foundation and was based on a very simple idea. Listen to the parents and understand their expectations about their children’s future during home visits before the start of the school year. After their observations, it was clear that parental engagement in their children’s education had a positive impact on their results.
“… if we can create the right kind of moment, relationships can change in an instant.”
Chip Heath and Dan Heath take up the theory of Harry T. Reis, a relationship specialist, to attempt to understand the impact of relationships. They mention the possibility of a “central organising principle” in relationship science:
“Our relationships are stronger when we perceive that our partners are responsive to us.”
By “responsive”, they mean that there is understanding, validation and kindness. This trio requires some balancing because these expectations are reciprocal. It is precisely this responsiveness that explains the success of the home visits at Stanton school in Washington. In fact, responsiveness is expected more in certain areas, such as healthcare.
To summarise, responsiveness:
- Enters into every area of life (work, personal life, various social interactions, etc.).
- Can be expressed in the sentence “What matters to you?”. Involves knowing how to take another person into account, to listen and understand them.
- Make the other person special and take their “baggage” into account.
“If we want more moments of connection, we need to be more responsive to others.” “
Act to keep relationships alive
The authors point out that responsiveness does not necessarily mean being close. It is simply a gateway if you want to forge a relationship with the other party. That way, dialogue can begin, an exchange of information, each in turn, so the relationship can become closer progressively. This does not happen naturally. You have to create it: “Relationships don’t deepen naturally. In the absence of action, they will stall.”
To close this chapter, Chip Heath and Dan Heath return to the importance of moments of connection. They allow you to create shared meaning. These bonds must be cultivated and are based on mutual understanding to evolve and strengthen.
This new exercise puts us inside a company in which the sales and marketing departments deeply misunderstood each other. The goal is to get them out of their “silos” to obtain a lasting collaboration. This exercise involves rethinking the role played by meetings and the necessity in some cases to create a defining moment to escape an impasse.
Chapter 12: Making moments matter
Experience defining moments
To launch the final chapter of the book The power of moments, the authors remind us about the tools that are available to us in the book to transform an important moment into a defining moment.
“A bit of attention and energy can transform an ordinary moment into an extraordinary one.”
While these defining moments can be measured in terms of satisfaction, return and engagement, they should also be goals:
“Defining moments lead to countless positive and measurable outcomes, but in our judgement they are not a means to an end. They are the ends. Creating more memorable and meaningful experiences is a worthy goal—for your work, for the people you care about, and for you personally—independent of any secondary impacts.”
Chip Heath and Dan Heath remind us that events will happen that will push back your efforts to create defining moments, but among the regrets people have expressed on their deathbed, one is that they missed out on the big moments in life (no doubt because they wanted to be “reasonable”…).
Seize the moments
The authors retrace the journey taken by Julie Kasten: from her position in a firm of consultants to becoming a guidance counsellor. As with all the life-changing examples that follow, there is a “lightning-bolt moment” that decides these people to change something in their life.
“When we began to read these powerful stories, we thought we were reading about epiphanies. “Eureka!” moments. But what dawned on us, as we read more of them, is that these were not stories about sudden realizations. These were stories about action.”
There is a time of awareness about the new possibilities that can trigger the process of change.
“Often, what looks like a moment of serendipity is actually a moment of intentionality. What Kasten, Mistry, and the others experienced as the shock of an insight was actually, we came to believe, the whiplash caused by realizing they could ACT and then wilfully jolting their lives in a new direction. They were not receiving a moment, they were seizing it.”
Conclusion of The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Often just a little effort can turn an ordinary moment into an extraordinary moment
The authors draw our attention to the importance of paying attention to seemingly ordinary moments. They can reveal their potential to become defining moments with very little effort.
“The most precious moments are often the ones that cost the least…. And that’s the charge for all of us: to defy the forgettable flatness of everyday work and life by creating a few precious moments.”
Create memorable souvenirs to enjoy a richer experience
Thinking about what makes a moment count is itself a common and useful thing. In this book, the Heath brothers ask us, in an original (in the sense that it is not a concept usually examined in personal development books) and most importantly interesting way to create a richer life for ourselves, one that is more intense, more beautiful.
Go beyond what is reasonable
In a few words, defining moments add meaning to our lives. That is why it is fundamental, for the authors, to go beyond what is reasonable in order to create unforgettable memories through the feelings of pride, elevation, insight and connection that they bring.
This is a book to help us develop at personal, professional, and interpersonal level.
The power of moments is a book for everyone. It teaches the keys to a plan that can be:
- Professional: managers, for example, will learn how to create defining moments within their department or company to develop team spirit and a shared struggle or goal. Entrepreneurial: understand how to make the customer experience unforgettable.
- Personal: multiplying defining moments in your life is a very attractive way of making life more interesting, more intense, to feel more alive.
- Interpersonal: being able to leave a mark on someone by offering them unforgettable moments will enrich your relationships and deepen the bonds with other people.
- Multiple examples from all walks of life are given (family, work, studies, death…) to realise how many kinds of special moments exist.
- Summaries at the end of each chapter offer a review of the big ideas point by point to retain the essential message.
- Detailed case studies: five examples in order to examine your own situation.
- There is no table of contents to understand how the book unfolds.
- The exercises are not really exercises, more like case studies. It would have be interesting to have a chance to use the tools to turn a given situation into a defining moment.
My rating :
Have you read “The Power of Moments”? How do you rate it?