Book Review: The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind, by Jonah Berger

The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone's Mind, by Jonah Berger

The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind by Jonah Berger

Published by Simon & Schuster on March 10, 2020 (expected)

Series: n/a

Genre(s): nonfiction

Format & Length: e-book, 272

Source: Netgalley

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From the author of New York Times bestsellers Contagious and Invisible Influence comes a revolutionary approach to changing anyone’s mind.

Everyone has something they want to change. Marketers want to change their customers’ minds and leaders want to change organizations. Start-ups want to change industries and nonprofits want to change the world. But change is hard. Often, we persuade and pressure and push, but nothing moves. Could there be a better way?

This book takes a different approach. Successful change agents know it’s not about pushing harder, or providing more information, it’s about being a catalyst. Catalysts remove roadblocks and reduce the barriers to change. Instead of asking, “How could I change someone’s mind?” they ask a different question: “Why haven’t they changed already? What’s stopping them?”

The Catalyst identifies the key barriers to change and how to mitigate them. You’ll learn how catalysts change minds in the toughest of situations: how hostage negotiators get people to come out with their hands up and how marketers get new products to catch on, how leaders transform organizational culture and how activists ignite social movements, how substance abuse counselors get addicts to realize they have a problem and how political canvassers change deeply rooted political beliefs.

This book is designed for anyone who wants to catalyze change. It provides a powerful way of thinking and a range of techniques that can lead to extraordinary results. Whether you’re trying to change one person, transform an organization, or shift the way an entire industry does business, this book will teach you how to become a catalyst.

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Have you ever wanted to change someone’s mind? Of course you have! The premise for The Catalyst is that pressure or pushing people often doesn’t get them to do what you want. But utilizing catalysts, or change agents, can reduce barriers to help change minds in the toughest situations, and identifies those key barriers and how to mitigate them. 

This has an intriguing concept, clear writing, and a straightforward structure. It lays out five barriers to change, and each is the subject of its own chapter where it is discussed at length, along with anecdotes and case studies. But the applicable points are scattered in a way that suggests the intended audience is entirely too broad. In fact, the introduction states that “this book is designed for anyone who wants to change minds.” Unfortunately, it is not quite long or specific enough to carry out out this intention. Instead, some tactics shown work better on an individual level while others make much more sense for business. Focusing on a particular audience would have, I believe, made this much stronger. 

My other issue with The Catalyst is that it draws conclusions in the anecdotes and case studies that may not be entirely true. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. While his theories may be possible, in some cases it is hard to know for certain what actually changed people’s minds. 

That all said, I both enjoyed reading The Catalyst and learned a couple things along the way. I wouldn’t suggest reading this to learn how to persuade absolutely anyone to do anything but if the subject matter interests you, it’s worth a quick read. 

*Thanks to the publisher for providing an arc of this edition via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind, by Jonah Berger

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