Book Notes: The Power of Moments

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NOTE: This article was originally posted on the Notes for Growth blog. This is a blog where our team shares notes on the books we’ve read.

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact is an exploration of the characteristics of memorable and impactful moments. Through moving and inspirational stories as well as fascinating research and psychological studies, the book helps readers appreciate the value of creating moments in our personal and professional lives.

Authors, Dan and Chip Heath, investigate the psychology of moments (big and small) and give readers a framework for creating moments that shape organizational culture, increase customer loyalty, and improve employee morale (to name just a few).

Thinking in Moments

Before unpacking the elements of a powerful moment, Dan and Chip Heath walk readers through three important situations that are rife for creating moments. They propose that if readers begin “thinking in moments” they will find a greater appreciation for the opportunities that present themselves. Consider the following three situations:

  1. Milestones: Passing the driver’s test and getting your license, going to prom, receiving your acceptance letter for college, getting married; these are milestones many of us encounter that define and shape our lives. However, how many companies actually consider this? For example, how might a bank curate an experience where a customer feels that the bank truly appreciates the importance of buying a home? What if the bank provided a welcome basket on move-in day that, not only thanked customers for trusting them with their business, but offered useful items for when you’ve just arrived at your new home with all your stuff in boxes and nothing in your fridge? (e.g. a coupon for a free pizza, laundry detergent, snacks, bottled water). Acknowledging customers’ life milestones is a great way create fantastic customer experiences that engender customer loyalty.
  2. Transitions: Starting a new job, completing a long-term project, moving over to a new team, retiring; these moments are a chance to connect and create experiences that help others feel valued and supported. The authors offer an example of how John Deere creates moments for first-day employees where they receive a video message from the CEO and arrive to their desk to find it decorated with a personalized banner; welcoming them to the company. The banner serves two purposes: it makes new employees feel welcomed, but it also signals to all the other employees that someone new has arrived on their floor. This gives them an opportunity to create more moments for the new employee (e.g. introduce themselves, invite them out to lunch, ask if they need anything, etc.).
  3. Pits: Of course, it’s hard to create powerful moments for customers, if you haven’t acknowledged areas where your core experiences are falling short. For example, it’s hard to create a meaningful support moment, if your customer has to wait on the phone for over an hour to talk to a representative. That being said, “pits” are still situations that can be converted into meaningful moments. For example, a manager receiving negative feedback from her peers is a pit, but it’s also an opportunity for her manager to create a moment of support and guidance.

The Four Elements of a Powerful Moment

After researching numerous examples, the authors discovered that there is a familiar pattern of 4 elements that define powerful moments: elevation, insight, pride, and connection.

Elevation

A phrase used often in the book to exemplify elevating a moment is “breaking the script”.

For example, consider a PowerPoint presentation. This tool can certainly be used to describe the work your division does, but is it truly memorable? No. People see PowerPoint presentations every day. What if you were to create a guided tour, allowing others to see first-hand the work that happens within your division? That’s changing things up and “breaking the script”.

The authors encourage readers to consider how they might elevate moments and look for opportunities (big and small) where they might offer something that wasn’t expected.

Insight

Defining moments are those that unlock an “a-ha” experience. It’s that moment you realize the relationship isn’t working or that it’s time to look for a new job. It can also be a moment where you discover the purpose of your job or how your work impacts the customer.

These are moments, that if engineered correctly, can absolutely be leveraged to help others “trip over the truth”.

One example was the story of Scott Guthrie (the then corporate vice president of Azure). In 2011, after conducting numerous interviews with customers, he called an offsite meeting with all his senior managers. During the offsite he gave them a challenge, “build an app using Azure”. “It was a complete disaster”, says Guthrie.

While it was a painful experience for the team, it was a powerful insight that helped them “trip over the truth.” There were areas of the product that were unnecessarily complex and hard to use. This galvanized the team and created a powerful moment where they were committed to do better.

Pride

More than 80% of supervisors claim they “frequently” express appreciation to their employees, while less than 20% of employees report their supervisor expresses appreciation “more than occasionally”.

The authors state that recognition goes a long way and it doesn’t have to be expensive or grand. In fact, experts suggest that moments of recognition that are powerful and memorable often tend to be moments that are spontaneous and not part of any regularly scheduled feedback, bonus, or promotion discussion.

The key is that moments of recognition are ones that ingrain pride and purpose in the work that we’re doing. It’s receiving a hand-written note from a client thanking you for putting in extra hours. It’s seeing a customer successfully launch their business with a tool that you built. It’s meeting a patient whose life was saved by your company’s product.

Moments of pride can be deeply personal or broadly shared.

Connection

Which leads to the final element of any moment; connection. The moments we tend to remember most are ones in which we experienced something with others. It’s “being in the foxhole” during an important project or supporting a friend through the loss of a loved one.

Human connection enhances moments and we should consider how we might engineer situations that allow those connections to happen organically.

For example, during a new employee workshop, consider having the leadership team come through on the final day to listen to presentations, from the employees, about what they’ve learned. This creates a “mini crisis moment” where teams of these new employees must work together to prepare for an important presentation.

In these moments of heightened stress, bonds are formed, and the situation breaks out of the ordinary. Effectively, you’ve “broken the script” and transformed a boring series of lectures into a must-deliver situation where new employees work together to create a moment for the leadership team.

These four elements, elevation, insight, pride, and connection are hallmarks of great moments. While combining them can certainly make a moment more powerful, it’s not necessary. Each of these elements are guides to help us appreciate why powerful moments matter and can also be used to assist us in creating those moments for others.

UX Researcher and Author