I enjoy a nice book on persuasion and Jonah Berger‘s on catalysts and persuasion is certainly one of them. (They make excellent gifts at any time of the year). His prior books were enjoyable and generally illuminating. The Catalyst follows in that tradition. (Although I do think it is funny when writing one of these books. It seems compulsory to say we were all wrong before this book. I don’t know whether we should throw out Berger’s prior books now The Catalyst is out. See my comments on his previous book here).
Jonah Berger highlights a lot of reasons why people don’t change and it makes sense. Basically, people have got to want to change. It is nigh on impossible to force someone to change. As such a lot of the book is about listening to people and seeing what the roadblocks to change are. Why do smokers who know it is harmful keep on smoking? Shouting at them that it is harmful won’t help much given they already know this.
Berger talks about inertia. We see this in organizations: “…companies take last year’s budget and use that as a starting point” (Berger, 2020). Once you get a budget line it is there to stay. This makes getting the budget line the first time the big trick.
Catalysts And Persuasion
The metaphor of a catalyst seems like a excellent one to me. Rather than push harder a catalyst reduces “the amount of energy required for reactions to occur” (Berger, 2020). He even has a great acronym, (something I can never seem to do), for looking at persuasion: REDUCE. “Catalysts reduce Reactance, ease Endowment, shrink Distance, alleviate Uncertainty, and find Corroborating Evidence” (Berger, 2020, bold in the original). This is a good way of looking at the problem. Pretty persuasive really.
Read: Jonah Berger (2020) The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind, Simon & Schuster