The Catalyst

Don’t let culture eat your CX strategy for breakfast - up your game for change management internally and externally

“Change is often less about pushing people and more about removing barriers.”

-Jonah Berger

The Catalyst by Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at Wharton, is a thought-provoking book containing a message with near-universal appeal. It presents an insightful take on how we interact with others personally and professionally and how we can better influence their decisions. I also believe it’s highly relevant for change management and culture evolution within your company as you seek to drive a higher ROI from your investments in experience management, as well as for how you think about driving adoption of new behaviors by your customers along their journey with your brand. I recommend his earlier books Contagious and Invisible Influence, too, but suggest starting with The Catalyst

At its core, The Catalyst addresses a problem that has confounded people since the beginning of time: How do we change people's minds? Professor Berger contends that rather than pushing harder, the key is to identify and reduce barriers to change. To aid this process, he introduces the REDUCE framework, which stands for: Reactance, Endowment, Distance, Uncertainty, and Corroborating Evidence. He defines the meaning of each as follows:

Reactance: The inherent resistance people exhibit when they feel their freedom is being threatened 

Endowment: The human tendency to overvalue what we already possess

Distance: The difficulty of convincing someone when their beliefs are significantly different from yours 

Uncertainty: People resist change when they're unsure about the outcome 

Corroborating Evidence: The need for multiple pieces of supporting evidence to effect change

Berger’s approach in The Catalyst provides a refreshing perspective on influence and persuasion. His book is not just an engaging read but a practical guide, especially for companies that feel stuck and haven’t made as much progress as they’d like improving their net promoter score (NPS) or customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores and translating this into measurable business value (note: this is actually the majority of companies so you are not alone!) Berger’s book is especially valuable for companies on a journey to improve their CX and use that as a catalyst for renewed growth and innovation, as one of the key barriers to success is insufficient attention to change management and sensitivity to the role that culture plays in sustaining motivation and commitment to change. Becoming a more customer-driven organization means aligning on the right priorities, obtaining buy-in for the business case, and fostering the adoption of new behaviors across leadership, management, and frontline employees.

Applying the book’s REDUCE framework can help build shared understanding, adoption, and advocacy, facilitating a smoother evolution towards a customer-driven culture. Building upon the great ideas in the book, developing an upfront understanding of your culture and prioritizing the behaviors for which you’d like to amplify adoption in your organization, will be a great complement to thinking about barriers to change for your prioritized CX initiatives. Moreover, Berger’s approach is well aligned to the maxim that it’s better to act your way into new mindsets than preach a change in mindsets. Where many fall flat in how they approach change management is that they focus on pushing and preaching, rather than tapping into their organization’s key internal influencers, sharing success stories, and celebrating victories. By applying the REDUCE framework to your CX efforts, you can build a more customer-driven culture and use this as a catalyst to accelerate growth and innovation at your company.

Berger's ability to redefine how we approach an age-old challenge is a testament to his innovative thinking. The book has profound implications for journey orchestration through its ability to inspire readers to reconsider their strategies and implement change more effectively. The Catalyst is a must-read for anyone in CX, HR, leadership roles, or indeed anyone aiming to enact meaningful change.

To read some of my own articles on change management and culture evolution as they relate to experience management specifically, click here

If you'd like to see the full set of my book reviews, click here