The Power Of Moments

by Chip & Dan Heath

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: February 23, 2024
 8 min read
The Power Of Moments
The Power Of Moments

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What are the big ideas?

  1. Special moments that really stand out to us are often short but have a big effect on us.
  2. We usually remember the best or last parts of an experience, not the whole thing.
  3. Good customer service is about fixing problems and then making some parts of the experience really great.
  4. Surprising people by doing something unexpected can make an experience more memorable.
  5. Saying thank you for good work and understanding important truths can create moments that mean a lot to us.


Chapter 1: Defining Moments

The Essence and Creation of Defining Moments

  • The Power of Moments is about why certain brief experiences can jolt us and elevate us and change us—and how we can learn to create such extraordinary moments in our life and work.
  • A defining moment is a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful.
  • Defining moments possess at least one of the following four elements: Elevation, Insight, Pride, Connection.

The Nature of Human Memory in Experiences

  • Research has found that in recalling an experience, we ignore most of what happened and focus instead on a few particular moments.
  • When people assess an experience, they tend to forget or ignore its length—a phenomenon called “duration neglect.”
  • They seem to rate the experience based on two key moments: the best or worst moment, known as the “peak”; and the ending.
  • What’s indisputable is that when we assess our experiences, we don’t average our minute-by-minute sensations. Rather, we tend to remember flagship moments: the peaks, the pits, and the transitions.

Characteristics of Service Experiences

  • The surprise about great service experiences is that they are mostly forgettable and occasionally remarkable.
  • Some moments are vastly more meaningful than others.

Chapter 2: Thinking in Moments

Identifying Opportunities for Defining Moments

  • If you’re struggling to make a transition, create a defining moment that draws a dividing line between Old You and New You.
  • Pits are the opposite of peaks. They are negative defining moments—moments of hardship or pain or anxiety.
  • Transitions should be marked, milestones commemorated, and pits filled.
  • Three situations constitute natural defining moments and deserve our attention: transitions, milestones, and pits.

Chapter 3: Build Peaks

Customer Experience and Memory

  • In many customer relationships, the moments most likely to be remembered are pits.
  • “Mostly forgettable” is actually a desirable state in many businesses. It means nothing went wrong. You got what you expected.
  • When creating a memorable customer experience, you first need to 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.”
  • Fill pits, then build peaks.

Strategies for Enhancing Customer Service Experiences

  • Many business leaders never pivot to that second stage. Instead, having filled the pits in their service, they scramble to pave the potholes—the minor problems and annoyances.
  • Research suggests that when customers contact you because they’ve had problems with your product or service, you should focus on defense—that is, you should focus on efficiency and not try to “delight” them.
  • In customer service, you’ll earn about 9 times more revenue if you elevate the positives (e.g. move a customer’s rating from a 4 to a 5), that you will eliminate the negatives (e.g. move a customer’s rating from a 3 to a 4).
  • To create fans, you need the remarkable, and that requires peaks. Peaks don’t emerge naturally. They must be built.
  • To elevate a moment, do three things: First, boost sensory appeal. Second, raise the stakes. Third, break the script. (Breaking the script means to violate expectations about an experience).
  • Moments of elevation need not have all three elements but most have at least two.
  • Boosting sensory appeal is about “turning up the volume” on reality.
  • To raise the stakes is to add an element of productive pressure: a competition, a game, a performance, a deadline, a public commitment.
  • One simple diagnostic to gauge whether you’ve transcended the ordinary is if people feel the need to pull out their cameras.
  • Our instinct to capture a moment says: I want to remember this. That’s a moment of elevation.
  • Beware the soul-sucking force of “reasonableness.” Otherwise, you risk deflating your peaks.

Chapter 4: Break the Script

Defying Expectations to Enhance Experiences

  • To break the script is to defy people’s expectations of how an experience will unfold.
  • Breaking the script involves understanding and then defying the script.

The Power of Surprise in Customer Experiences

  • A study of hotel reviews on TripAdvisor found that a “delightful surprise” greatly increased willingness to recommend the hotel.
  • Introducing a bit of randomness can effectively break the script in customer experiences.

The Impact of Unique and Memorable Customer Interactions

  • Pret A Manger employees giving away hot drinks and food items creates memorable experiences.
  • Funny flight safety announcements on Southwest flights increased customer loyalty and had significant revenue implications.

Using Defining Moments in Organizational Change

  • Executives leading change should create peaks to mark the shift from old ways to new ways.
  • Older people's most vivid memories often come from ages 15 to 30, a period known as the “reminiscence bump.”

Embracing Variety for a Memorable Future

  • Variety in experiences prevents a future that's less memorable than the past.
  • Recognizing and disrupting one's own scripts can lead to moments of elevation.

Chapter 5: Trip Over the Truth

Experiencing Sudden Realizations

  • When you have a sudden realization, one that you didn’t see coming, and one that you know viscerally is right, you’ve tripped over the truth.
  • The “aha!” moment should always happen in the minds of the audience.

Creating Moments of Insight

  • 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.
  • You can’t appreciate the solution until you appreciate the problem. So when Chip and Dan write about “tripping over the truth,” they mean the truth about a problem or harm. That’s what sparks sudden insight.

Chapter 6: Stretch for Insight

Insight Through Reflection and Action

  • Research suggests that reflecting or ruminating on our thoughts and feelings is an ineffective way to achieve true understanding. Studying our own behavior is more fruitful.
  • Action leads to insight more often than insight leads to action.

The Role of Mentorship in Creating Insight

  • Barbara Fredrickson argued that peaks in memory serve as a kind of psychic price tag, indicating the cost of enduring an experience again.
  • Mentorship in two sentences: “I have high expectations for you and I know you can meet them. So try this new challenge and if you fail, I’ll help you recover.”
  • A mentor’s push leads to a stretch, which creates a moment of self-insight.
  • The formula for mentorship that leads to self-insight: High standards + assurance + direction + support.
  • Expecting our mentees to stretch requires us to overcome our natural instinct to protect the people we care about from risk.

Chapter 7: Recognize Others

The Impact of Recognition on Creating Pride

  • Of all the ways we can create moments of pride for others, the simplest is to offer them recognition.
  • Across studies, “full appreciation of work done” is consistently cited as a top motivator.
  • Most recognition should be personal, not programmatic.
  • Effective recognition makes the employee feel noticed for what they’ve done.

Building Commitment Through Recognition

  • DonorsChoose found that donors who receive thank-you letters will make larger donations the next year.
  • Practicing gratitude leads to a rush of happiness and has lasting effects.

Chapter 8: Multiply Milestones

Setting and Celebrating Milestones

  • To identify milestones, ask: What’s inherently motivating? What’s worth celebrating?
  • Hitting a milestone sparks pride and should be celebrated—a moment of elevation.
  • Milestones compel us to make a final push of effort because they are within our grasp and worth reaching for.
  • We can create many intermediate “finish lines” in a long journey to experience bursts of pride and energy.

Chapter 9: Practice Courage

Managing Fear and Developing Courage

  • Managing fear is a critical part of courage.
  • Practicing courage in advance prepares us for challenging situations.
  • Courageous acts inspire others and can be defining moments.
  • Practicing courage lets us “preload” our responses.

The Influence of Courage on Others

  • Courage is contagious; our moments of action can be a defining moment for others.
  • Moments when we display courage make us proud.

Chapter 10: Create Shared Meaning

Fostering Unity and Shared Meaning in Groups

  • For groups, defining moments arise when we create shared meaning.
  • Researcher Robert Provine found that laughter was more common in social settings.
  • Taking on a demanding task that’s deeply meaningful creates strong group bonds.

Connecting to a Larger Sense of Meaning

  • Purpose is contributing to others, while passion is excitement for your work.
  • Purpose trumps passion in terms of performance.
  • Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski believes that purpose is cultivated, not discovered.
  • Connecting to meaning matters in work and motivates “above and beyond” efforts.

Chapter 11: Deepen Ties

Strengthening Relationships Through Responsiveness

  • Responsiveness in relationships involves understanding, validation, and caring.
  • Responsive treatment makes people feel secure and brings couples closer together.

Improving Employee Satisfaction and Relationships

  • The six most revealing questions to assess employees’ satisfaction focus on expectations, materials, opportunities, recognition, care, and encouragement for development.
  • Responsiveness coupled with openness leads to intimacy in relationships.

Chapter 12: Making Moments Matter

Finding Positivity in Difficult Times

  • In great suffering, look for small peaks, celebrate relationships, and acknowledge your strength.
  • Identifying new possibilities and looking for spiritual insight can help find meaning in suffering.
  • Creating moments that matter involves recognizing the good even in challenging times.


  1. How can we intentionally create defining moments in our lives and work?
  2. Why do we tend to focus on only certain moments of an experience?
  3. What makes a service experience remarkable or forgettable?
  4. How can transitions, milestones, and pits become defining moments?
  5. What strategies can enhance customer service experiences to make them memorable?
  6. How does breaking expectations create memorable experiences?
  7. Why is it important to confront uncomfortable truths for personal insight?
  8. How does recognizing others contribute to creating moments of pride?

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