Duke University’s senior fellow and founder of Change Academy, Dan Heath, the New York Times best-selling author discusses the impact of certain moments and how we could be the creators of richer experiences in his latest book,“Power of Moments.”

What is the power of a moment?

Moments are powerful because they define experiences. Think back to a recent vacation and how a few special moments from that trip capture the joy of the experience even as most of it has faded from memory. Great experiences hinge on “peak” moments — moments that arise above the rest. So when we talk about creating better experiences for other people, whether students or employees or customers, we’re really talking about creating peak moments.

How can a moment that occurs in such a short period of time have such a profound impact on one’s entire life?

Not all peak moments change your life but some do. Usually those are moments of insight. In an instant, we realize something that changes our view of ourselves or our world. And while many of those moments seem to come serendipitously, there are strategies we can use to create powerful moments of insight for ourselves and others.

What is a simple idea educators can use to leverage the power of moments to create more powerful learning experiences?

Educators need to plan for peak moments. What’s the single-most important moment in the training you’re leading? If the participants recall one thing from the training a year later do you know what it would be? Have you consciously planned that peak?

This sounds like a simple idea but the vast majority of training sessions lack peaks. Including mine! I realized that many of my own workshops lacked a “peak.” And often our instincts lead us in the wrong direction. At many off-sites and conferences, for instance, organizers will spend a fortune on entertainment and fancy dinners. And meanwhile, every hour of the training receives roughly the same investment of resources — a parade of instructors stand in front of the room with a PowerPoint. Why aren’t we creating peaks in learning with the same effort and enthusiasm that we use to organize group dinners?

How does technology, particularly as it relates to education, help or hinder our ability to create memorable and powerful experiences?

As usual, the unsatisfying but true answer is that it does both. Technology can be a horrible distraction, as anyone who’s ever taught to a room full of laptops can attest. The participants are “taking notes,” of course.

You can’t create a peak moment when people are multitasking. But technology is often the only conceivable way to deliver a message well. There’s a simulation called the Beer Game, for instance, that gives students the chance to manage the supply chain for a beer company. And they learn some really powerful lessons that are the result of the horrible consequences of their own choices. To learn from your own actions is so much more powerful than hearing a lecture about supply chains. And we have interactive technology to thank for that.

How does the experience of powerful moments differ individually? Is it possible to create powerful moments as a group?

Moments are fundamentally individual. When I get an adrenaline high from riding Space Mountain at DisneyWorld, that’s my moment embedded in my memory. But of course, the guy in the car behind me had a similarly great moment which suggests that we can sometimes create moments at scale.

What’s interesting about peak moments shared by groups is that they usually emerge from shared struggle. Picture a championship youth soccer team, or a development team after a successful product launch, or a group of people who’ve built a house for Habitat for Humanity. What bonds them together is the fact that they strained and suffered and adapted together. That’s why no one feels bonded to the people they meet in a half-day workshop with a PowerPoint-wielding instructor. There’s no struggle, there’s no investment.

But of course, as people who care about education, we can change that! We can create powerful peak moments of learning.

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