Inspiration Series: The Power of Moments – Book Review

The driving force behind all the experiences we create is inspiration. Inspiration can come from many different sources and is essential to provide the fuel that powers the development of a high-quality experience.

Across this series of blogs we’ll be looking at some of our main inspirations and how they influence our work. The first of these is the book The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath.

The message in the book is that extraordinary moments can be created by targeting at least one of four elements. It explains how a person perceives an experience as memorable and meaningful and equally why it might be unremarkable and forgettable. It also delves into the psychology of moments which allows designers like us an insight into how to reach people in the most effective way.

The research has shown that people tend to ignore the length of an experience, and even most of what happens. They remember the peaks – the best bits, the pits – the worst bits, and the end. In our work this makes our goal to remove all pits for an above average enjoyable base level, to add in a couple of peaks throughout, and to finish on one too.

But how are peaks built? This is where the four elements come in.

The first way to build a peak is by elevating the moment. This is done by: 1) boosting sensory appeal – described by the book as ‘turning up the volume on reality’, 2) raising the stakes – adding an element of pressure like a competition, a performance, a deadline or a challenge, and 3) breaking the script – defying people’s expectations about how the experience will unfold. People remember the amazement of the unexpected as peaks. Elevated moments have a place in all experiences we create across all applications.

The second way to build a peak is with insight. Insight is about having a sudden realisation that you discover yourself, you know is right and you didn’t see coming. The book refers to this as ‘tripping over the truth’. It is a lot more effective for an experience to spark a realisation that has an emotional punch than for a person to simply be told the information. This is because the person’s first instinct is mistrust, doubt and even defensiveness. Self-discovery leads to an insight that the person has realised is right themselves, and this is almost impossible to ignore. People remember the jolt of realisations as peaks. Moments of insight have a specific place in the experiences we create for educational and engagement purposes.

The third way to build a peak is with pride. Moments of pride are about recognising progress and achievements. They are about creating an experience with many finish lines, each providing a celebration that instills pride in the person present. Receiving recognition leads a person to contribute more as they continue and to maintain investment in the experience. People remember the elation of their successes as peaks. Moments of pride have a place in all experiences we create across all applications.

The fourth way to build a peak is with connection – bringing people together for a synchronising moment that invites them to take part in a purposeful endeavour together. Creating a moment that shows someone the end purpose of their work inspires them to do more, and better, because they understand their ultimate contribution has meaning. This is about a person connecting with the people they are working with, sharing a purpose, and connecting with the people they are working to help, who provide the purpose – they may be the one and the same sometimes. People remember the comprehension that they are contributing to a real purpose as a peak. Moments of connection have a specific place in the experiences we create for education and relationship-building.

The last lesson of the book is to beware of reasonableness. This is what the book calls the ‘soul-sucking force’ that tries to tone down your ideas for being too out-there, too much work, too expensive, too unnecessary… If you want to create exceptional, memorable, meaningful moments then you need to do more than what everyone else is doing. You need to do the things that seem too much to everyone else. This is a notion that we fully believe in and it supplies us with endless inspiration for our work. In fact, reading this book was a moment of elevation, insight, pride and connection for us.