The Power Of Moments: Summary and Review

The Power Of Moments

The Power Of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath

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The Power Of Moments


The key idea in this book is that memorable moments can be engineered, they don’t have to happen by accident.

Example: John Deere purposely engineers a first day experience for new employees. Think about what are the natural moments that emerge from your normal business activities, and try to heighten them.

Thinking in moments:

The lack of attention paid to an employee’s first day is mind-boggling. What a wasted opportunity to make a new team member feel included and appreciated. Imagine if you treated a first date like a new employee: “I’ve got some meetings stacked up right now, so why don’t you get settled in the passenger seat of the car and I’ll swing back in a few hours?”

To avoid this kind of oversight, we must understand when special moments are needed. We must learn to think in moments, to spot the occasions that are worthy of investment.

This “moment-spotting” habit can be unnatural. In organizations, for instance, we are consumed with goals. Time is meaningful only insofar as it clarifies or measures our goals. The goal is the thing.


EPIC Acronym:

  • Elevate
  • Insight
  • Pride
  • Connect


Build the peak

Elevate the positives, don’t eliminate the negatives. People tend to remember peak experiences and forget annoyances:

If you Elevate the Positives (Plan B), you’ll earn about 9 times more revenue than if you Eliminate the Negatives (Plan A). (8.8 times, to be precise.) Yet most executives are pursuing Plan A.

Flip pits into peaks

Break the script


Trip over the Truth

Focus on the problem, not the solution:

He knows professors are approaching curriculum design the wrong way, and he has a solution for them (backward-integrated design). If he pitched the virtues of the solution, that would make him, in essence, a salesman for backward-integrated design. But how do audiences respond to sales pitches? With skepticism. We quibble and challenge and question.

If Palmer wants to persuade the professors, he needs them to trip over the truth. And that starts with a focus on the problem, not the solution.

“Imagine that you have a group of dream students. They are engaged, they are perfectly behaved, and they have perfect memories. . . . Fill in this sentence: 3–5 years from now, my students still know ___. Or they still are able to do ___. Or they still find value in ___.”

A math professor said, “I want them to think of math as fun and interesting in its own right, not just practical. . . . When they see a link to a math story, I want them to click it.”

Palmer scrawls their answers on a whiteboard at the front of the room. Everyone catches on immediately to one pattern: Very few of the answers are content focused. The math teacher, for instance, did not say he wanted his students to remember the Chain Rule; he said he wanted them to retain a natural interest in math.

Then he asks them to pull out the syllabus they brought to the institute. How much of your current syllabus will advance your students toward the dreams you have for them?

There’s an awkward silence in the room. George Christ, a biomedical engineering professor, remembered the moment with a chuckle: “You look at your syllabus, and you go, ‘Zero.’” Most professors discover exactly the same thing. It’s a head-slapper of a moment.

Stretch for Insight

(high standards + assurance + direction + support)


Recognize Others

Multiple Milestones

Practice Courage


Create Shared Meaning

Janitor: I’m not sweeping floors, I’m putting a man on the moon.

Deepen Ties

How could such a small intervention have such a big effect? We are accustomed to thinking about relationships in terms of time: The longer the relationship endures, the closer it must grow. But relationships don’t proceed in steady, predictable increments. There’s no guarantee that they will deepen with time. When you and your uncle make the same small talk every Thanksgiving, it’s not a surprise that 10 years later, you don’t feel any closer. Conversely, have you ever met someone and felt instantly that you liked and trusted them?

Our relationships are stronger when we perceive that our partners are responsive to us. (The term used frequently is “perceived partner responsiveness.”)

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.

Notice how much of the recipe is about attunement. We want our partners to see us the way we see ourselves, and we want them to accept us and to help us get what we want. It’s incredibly selfish, frankly—me, me, me! It’s reciprocal selfishness, actually, since our partner expects the same.

The teachers were forbidden to bring any paper to the visits—no contracts to sign, no information to review. Their role was simply to ask questions and listen to the answers. Those questions were prescribed for them:

“Tell me about your child’s experiences in school. Tell me about yours.”

“Tell me your hopes and dreams for your child’s future.”

“What do you want your child to be someday?”

“What do I need to do to help your child learn more effectively?”

It was the first time anyone had asked them about their dreams for their kids. Usually, when the school came calling, there was a form to fill out, or a discipline problem to talk about, or a request for volunteer time. But the home visit was different. The teacher was on their couch, listening to them.

Hearing the parents, Bryant’s attitude changed. “We say we value parents’ voices, but we never really listen to them,” she said. “It gave me goose bumps. I thought, Wow, we need to do more.”

A typical third grader in Washington, D.C., might spend 7 hours per day in school, across a calendar of 180 school days. That’s 1,260 hours of school time. The impact of a one-hour home visit should have been hopelessly diluted. Yet that one hour made a difference that rippled across the whole year. That’s a defining moment.

Keys to employee satisfaction at work

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work? (Validation.)
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person? (Caring.)
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development? (Understanding. Caring.)
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