In their exceptional book, The Power of Moments, authors Chip and Dan Heath write, “Our lives are measured in moments, and defining moments are the ones that endure in our memories.” It rings true, of course, because even as we read those words, snapshots of moments fly across the movie screens of our minds.
That moment in childhood when we realized we had a best friend.
The first time we pulled an all-nighter to cram for an exam.
A first kiss. And a first broken heart.
Some moments come as milestones—births and deaths, graduations, getting a driver’s license, landing that first job. Some moments are personally significant, like when we conquer a fear or turn a failure into valuable insight.
Moments shape our lives and help define who we are; what we believe in, what we’re willing to fight for, invest in, and let go of.
As the Heath brothers observe, certain experiences have extraordinary impact in our lives. And the secret is, we can be intentional in creating them. Memorable moments may occur serendipitously, of course, but there’s real power in understanding how we can lay the groundwork for creating exceptional opportunities and experiences that become part of the fabric of our lives—and perhaps the lives of others.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “moment” as a minute portion or point of time; a comparatively brief period of time; present time; a time of excellence or conspicuousness; importance in influence or effect; a stage in historical or logical development. Each definition captures an aspect of what we intuitively understand “moment” to mean—that point in time so rich in meaning or impact that it changed or formed something inside of us that made us who we are at this present moment in time.
According to the Heath brothers, defining moments are made up of one or more of the following elements.
- Elevation: Defining moments rise above the everyday.
- Insight: Defining moments rewire our understanding of ourselves.
- Pride: Defining moments capture us at our best.
- Connection: Defining moments are strengthened because we share them with others.
They contend that rather than leaving memory-making moments to chance, we can learn the skills to create them; and chief among those skills is to learn to “think in moments,” or rather develop the ability to “spot the occasions that are worthy of investment.”
Talent development professionals are moment makers.Regardless of role—whether stand-up trainer, instructional designer, coach, performance consultant, CTDO, or other—every talent development professional has the opportunity to intentionally create moments of insight and connection for learners.
Often, we talk about the “learner experience” and the need to ensure that programs and courses we design and deliver are relevant, aligned with business, and lead to outcomes that impact individual and organization performance.
Those “outcomes” are often moments of discovery for learners. Sometimes they are “aha moments” for leaders who discover new processes or efficiencies thanks to a root cause analysis that someone in the L&D function undertook. Meaningful moments designed into an onboarding program can impact retention. Engaging classroom experiences can create moments of connection with learners that drive collaboration and social learning long after the course is complete.
And of course, every talent development practitioner has their own mental scrapbook of defining moments that have informed and shaped them personally and professionally. There are key career moments that create clarity of purpose and focus, alter the trajectory of work, and influence accomplishments. Some moments are significant only in retrospect when, in reflection, we can see how that meeting, or failure, or success, or opportunity created a cascade of events and opportunities we could have never imagined.
And just like intentionality can be brought to our work in designing moments that create optimal learner experiences, we can bring that same effort to recognizing “those occasions worthy of investment” for our own careers and tomorrows.
The future of work and the impact of technology will require new and different ideas about and approaches to talent development. As a profession, this is a moment in time when each of us should be assessing what skills gaps exist in our organizations and what can be done to address them. At the same time, we need to be future-focused on what our organizations and learners need to be ready for the future of work.
And those assessments will require new knowledge and skills—opportunities for each of us to create moments where we can learn and discover what we need to create even more defining moments for those we have the privilege to influence.