Plan for Peak Moments and Don’t Sweat the Misses

Think about your last trip to a Disney amusement park or any similar outing. The majority of the day is spent battling crowds, waiting in long lines and overpaying for mediocre food.

Psychologists propose that if you ask a family to rate its experience at various times during a single day at a Disney park, with 1 being lousy and 10 being fantastic, you would receive a wide range of responses.

The daily average may fall in the 5 to 7 range — OK, but not a resounding endorsement for a day that is undoubtedly expensive. However, psychologists predict that if you ask that same family to rate their overall Disney experience one month later, the rating will likely shoot up toward 9 or 10.

In their 2019 book “The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact,” brothers and best-selling authors Dan and Chip Heath explain that when it comes to experiences, people remember the peak and the ending. Memories of long lines, hot sun and so-so food tend to be overpowered by positive moments — defining moments.

“Moments matter, but not every moment matters,” Dan Heath says. “Great experiences hinge on peak moments.”

That’s a critical insight for those who sponsor and plan experiential rewards. No company is shooting for — or satisfied with — any part of a corporate experience to be rated a 5 or 6. But, 5 and 6 moments occur. “When you look back on experiences that you consider great in your life, what you’ll notice is they’re usually not end-to-end great,” Heath says. “Much more frequently, those occasions are mostly forgettable and occasionally remarkable.”

It’s important to focus less on fixing or preventing problems, and more on creating overpowering moments. Fixing problems doesn’t impress. A road without potholes doesn’t thrill anyone, it “whelms” them, Heath says.

“Whelmed sure beats disappointed and angry and frustrated. But if we want employees that are delighted, that are proud, that are loyal and engaged, we’ve got to go beyond whelmed.”

Heath offers three strategies for creating peak moments for employees (whether it’s in the office or during an offsite) in a podcast that is available on their website’s Resources page. In exchange for your email address, you can also access the first chapter of “The Power of Moments” and other goodies.


Get our newsletter and digital focus reports

Stay current on learning and development trends, best practices, research, new products and technologies, case studies and much more.