Vikrama Dhiman
My name is Vikrama Dhiman. I lead Mobility Products @ Gojek. Previously, I led product teams at Bharti SoftBank (Airtel Money, myAirtel, Wynk), Directi (BigRock), Zeta (Corporate Benefits and Gifting), WizIQ (eLearning) and MakeMyTrip (Travel/ Hotels). I was an Agile Coach with Cisco, Yodlee, Sapient, HP & I am an avid reader.

The Catalyst by Jonah Berger | A Book Review by Vikrama Dhiman

Terrible things get replaced, but mediocre things stick around. Horrible performance generates action, but average performance generates complacency.

This quote from the book will always remain with me!

The spark moment in Jonah Berger’s latest book The Catalayst is in the chapter Corroborating Evidence. As the chapter dives into telling the story of drug addicts and how interventionists take steps to get addicts to agree for help - you walk through a poignant and real evidence of how psychological studies can bring out real change. The example that follows of how a psychologist helped Americans love the animal liver (and perhaps kidneys) in their diet was amazing as well. And finally, the final part about Arab and Israeli youngsters discovering commonalities between them in a summer camp in America sealed the book nicely. These parts really set the book apart and the book is worth reading in its entirety as well.

The author summarized the entire book in the finale as well with a few diagrams. The key one I have produced below (coz bunch of it is already been mentioned in authors talks) already.


That’s the book for you really if you feel that just picking up a catchy framework is enough. There’s more to the book obviously as I’ve cited in my opening paragraph.

The quotes from the book that stayed with me include:

  • Because rather than asking what might convince someone to change, catalysts start with a more basic question: Why hasn’t that person changed already? What is blocking them?
  • Restriction generates a psychological phenomenon called reactance. An unpleasant state that occurs when people feel their freedom is lost or threatened.
  • To reduce reactance, catalysts allow for agency—not by telling people what to do or by being completely hands-off, but by finding the middle ground. By guiding their path. Four key ways to do that are: (1) Provide a menu, (2) ask, don’t tell, (3) highlight a gap, and (4) start with understanding.
  • To get people to change, the advantages have to be at least twice as good as the disadvantages. New software can’t be just a little better; it has to be a lot better. A new approach can’t just be slightly more effective; it has to be significantly more effective. If people have to give up something they like or lose things they value, the benefit (e.g., boosted efficiency, decreased cost, or some other positive change) has to be at least twice as big to make up for it.
  • But while the MBAs spend a lot of time thinking about the potential dangers of making a change, they tend to spend less time thinking about something equally important: The risks of doing nothing.
  • Similarity matters for changing minds, as we know, but it turns out diversity is also important. People were more likely to donate when the prior donors they knew came from separate, independent groups.
  • Take two people, one who got two invitations in quick succession and one who received them a month or two apart. The person who received the two invitations one right after the other was over 50 percent more likely to join the site.
  • If there are only enough resources to target two people, which is better? Spreading things out and targeting one person in each market? Or concentrating resources and going after two people in the same place?

More quotes here.

Jonah Berger writes books on interesting topics. Contagious, How Ideas Spread, Catalayst, Invisible Influence are all the same broader theme. I’ve read Contagious and Catalyst. One sentence summary -> “Occasional Spark and that Spark stays with you.”

Overall, I’ll give the book a 3/5 -> not consistently excellent but it does spark in various place. Have you read the book? What did you think?

If you are not interested in reading the book, you can just watch the video below:

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