Co-Reads | Power of Moments, A summary-letter to my friends
This piece was written as a note to all my friends-colleagues at ATÖLYE
I just finished reading the book. Actually to be frank, I am 20 pages away from the finish line but I can already consider this a huge victory considering that it has been quite a while that I have not finished a book 100%. I guess I have the recent long flights with the same airline (and thus the same menu of movies) to thank for. I fell proud and inspired. And I wanted to share what inspired me the most with you. As I am writing from my memory, facts and interpretations may have mixed, but I guess that is what constitutes a learning.
The first insight form the book - “thinking in moments” chapter - tells us that we don’t really think about our lives as years or places but actually as moments - specifically defining moments. If you think back and try to remember the most important moments of your life most likely they will be: learning to ride a bike, first kiss, first heartbreak, learning to play a guitar, getting in university, moving out of home, first job, maybe engagement or marriage? All these moments are what the authors call defining moments, and they are defining because they usually represent transitions (the beginning or end of something - that also means a new beginning), pits (hardest moments, with deep pain or despair) and peaks (moments where you felt the happiest person in the world).
The first lesson to me came as a surprise when the book says that instead of designing fully perfect experiences (talking specifically about corporate services - not only Disneyland), instead of aiming for correcting all pain-points and making the experience flawless, you should actually actively search for these defining moments within the experience and use the “recipe for powerful moments” that I will explain soon.
The book also exemplifies that if you ask a person to rate their Disneyland experience hourly, the hard and good moments would probably add up to an average of 6, but if you ask them to rate the whole day, they would probably give a 9, remembering the magical smell of cookies at the entrance, the lines (thus -1), the rush on the space mountain and buying the Mickey Mouse hat at the end. So start, pits, peaks and ending. Other experiments show that people tend to give a much higher grade to an experience that ends only slightly better than a similar one just because that last moment weights so much more in our memories. Crazy, right?
Ok, so back to the magical recipe. Once you identify these inherent defining moments, there are essentially 4 elements that you can add to make that moment remembered forever: Elevation, Insight, Pride and Connection.
Elevation: Honor that moment for real, make it great, add sensorial appeal, and break the script, do what is not expected. As an example, it talks about this “Magic Castle Hotel” that has ratings as high as the Ritz even though the infrastructure and interior design is nothing outstanding. It is famous because it has a few “magical services” like the Popsicle Hotline: a red phone by the pool that when reached for, a hotel staff answers something like: “Popsicle Hotline, how can we help you today?”. As you request your flavor of choice, a person brings your popsicle wearing white gloves on a silver trey. Here a great warning it gives us is the danger of reasonableness: yes, it would have been much easier to put a freezer with ice-cream by the pool, but what is the fun in that? And how much that makes it unforgettable? So let’s break more scripts and push further to reimagine the obvious! :)
Insight: That would be a tough one to actually design for. We have these moments naturally as designers all the time but we rarely “cause them to happen” to our clients or stakeholders. Basically this section talks about doing the work of leading the person/client/user to have the realization that something is needed without telling them directly, a bit like the work of a psychologist that asks you questions so that you reflect and get to the conclusions yourself. And two tricks to make that really powerful is to dramatize the facts, making the reality as “felt” or as visual as possible, and make them “trip over the truth” - trip because it has to be fast, immediate. In essence, the mission is to make people reach the conclusion that their current behavior or reality is no longer acceptable and make them commit to a new modus operandi. The examples involve taking the clients themselves to interviews or try themselves their products or services and see how the change is needed. Considering the design process and projects, the question for me is: How Might We make our presentation of insights in design projects into moments of insight themselves?
Pride: This one is all about celebrating achievements and multiplying milestones. It is a mix between making appreciations public and "gamifying" processes as achievable levels that give just the right amount of pride for you to keep going. Another important element here is courage - it is important to raise the stakes, create a daunting situation where you would feel somehow exposed or proud of doing something publicly like speaking up when you identify something even if you feel like the majority agrees to the opposite. My favorite example from the book is the Signing day: a ceremony where students that graduate high school use the ceremony moment (that is already elevated by nature) to announce which college they have decided to attend. That may seem less important to those of us that had great education and probably knew that that would be in our future undoubtedly. But in this case, this was an idea of teachers of a public school in US as a way of celebrating the amazing accomplishments of a few of their students that actually had got into college and were probably the first ones to attend an university in their family. That day suddenly gave students a moment to look for, and serves as an inspiration for all the other students in the school to study harder because they too want to have something to announce once it was their turn. Many of the students would keep their chosen school a secret for the big revelation day and that became a tradition that multiplied the number of students attending universities from something like 17% to 74% (apologies here if the numbers are not accurate since it has been maybe 2 months I read that part but I remember it was a huge difference). Another element worth pointing is the public commitment, something that is already known as a great behavioral nudge (and probably the reason why so many of us publicly post small victories of any journey we put ourselves in). Obvious but good to point out. So what are the moments of pride that we should multiply? Or How Might We make our projects or tasks even more interesting to us and to others via multiplying milestones and sharing victories and appreciation? And are there any moment of pride in the lives or our users/personas/humans that we could choose to elevate? Any carrots or challenges we can add as interim milestones to get them where they need to be? (Too many questions on this one. Sorry!)
Connection: The last and most soulful one (maybe my favorite since I am a butter inside) talks about how great defining moments are moments of connection because they are essentially shared with people we love and/or also make us create deeper connections. The section says that stronger bonds happen when we go through tough times together as long as it is a shared battle with a shared meaning or purpose. A call from a CEO in a 500 people company event asking them to volunteer to help fix their customer experience in their hospital chain, giving them the consciousness they are all being a part of a patients lives and they should have autonomy to do the best they can to make patients happy, regardless of their roles. That created a sense of shared meaning and made their hospital chain globally known for best service. The insight is the shared meaning that also called for voluntary action and allowed for autonomy to make the right calls when needed for the best interest of the patients. Another example in this section about connection - What Matters to Me - talks about how understanding, validation and caring (3 key elements of pure real empathy) are the key to create connections between strangers on the basis of: learn what is important to someone, show that you respect them for who they are and what they want, and and show that you want to take active and supportive steps to help them meet their needs. I guess the best question to ask here is how can we find the shared purpose in our daily work? And how can we get our clients/partners to see and own theirs?
One last thing important to point out is that most of the defining moments are a mix of a few of these elements above explained. I can imagine the skeptical minds already doubting or identifying overlays in the examples shared, so if you have spotted them, you are right! Hardly you have all 4 but if you do, for sure you have a remarkable memory! So I guess that would be my last challenge: How Might We push to add elevation, insight, pride and connection into the great moments we design for?
All in all, I just felt like this book was very much worth sharing and reading it during flights makes you extra inspired. I suggest anyone interested to read at least chapter 1, and all the final pages of each of the 4 parts that give a summary of the highlights (I am sure there are many more important ones I may have forgotten) and has also case studies (clinics) that show these elements in action in different examples.
I hope this quick note gets to inspire you at least a fraction of how much this book has inspired me. It felt as good as a creative gym, and has awaken my brain from the plateau of analytical thinking that I was feeling myself in recently. What I also love about this book is that it is as inspiring for designing as it is for living - elevate moments in your life and break your own script, surprise yourself, celebrate your small and big victories and appreciate and celebrate with others their own. Be brave to speak up even is all your peers seem to agree, go through shared tough times together for a higher purpose. If the purpose of your client or your current work does not inspire you, think of the bigger picture on how something that may feel meaningless now can actually make someone smile because that was done. Call me a dreamer - maybe flying does have a big effect on me - but I just wanted to say how happy I am that we have been going through these tough times together, how I feel like we have this great shared purpose of building the future of ATÖLYE together and knowing that we are all fighting and growing and learning together motivates me to push the extra mile when needed. And I do hope that this challenges you to also create more powerful moments in your work and your lives as it has challenged me. All in all, I am glad to be in this moment (however your want to frame it) with you all.