The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind by Jonah Berger was one of my pre-pandemic book grabs knowing I’d be holed up for awhile. I mean, tough to resist the temptation to become a Svengali, right?
And while I don’t consider myself a mover and shaker type, Berger’s book can be applied to non-business relationships as well. Berger’s organization of chapters and methodical data driven approaches make the book palatable. “Reactance” deals with people’s resistance to change. "Endowment" deals with how many of us prefer mediocre and inactive rather than change’s inherent risk. “Distance” confirms that unless we look for a movable middle, two opposing forces will remain thusly polar. “Uncertainty” helps explain to businesses how to make change easier for folks, giving them free trials and low risk mini commitments. Last “Corroborating Evidence” explains how interventions have success with addicts, but that sprinkling multiple suggestions to prospective customers might also lead to change.
What struck me most about Catalyst was its Epilogue, where Berger highlights a Bill Clinton led 1993 Peace Accord Meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian Leaders. Clinton’s comments that day highlighted that the most important group in the audience were the teens from Seeds of Peace Camp, a Maine based summer camp which takes teens of both groups and has them work together and separately for three weeks. The bottom line is that teens got to see others of the ‘opposing’ camp as individual human beings. And as Berger ends the book, to truly change someone’s mind starts with understanding. As we all head back to work and play, there has never been a more important note for all of us to consider. We are all fallible and lovable human beings. Pretty great advice from a ‘business’ book, considering at the base of every commercial success are the humans who support it.