The Catalyst How to Change Anyone’s Mind – Jonah Berger Book Summary

The Catalyst How to Change Anyone’s Mind – Jonah Berger | Free Book Summary

The Catalyst How to Change Anyone’s Mind – Jonah Berger

Everyone has something they want to change. Marketers want to change their customers’ minds, and leaders want to change organizations. Startups 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?

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. In The Catalyst, Jonah Berger identifies the key barriers to change and how to mitigate them.

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You’ll learn how catalysts change minds in tough situations, such as how marketers get new products to catch on and how leaders transform organizational culture.

The Catalyst is for anyone who wants to catalyze change. Whether you’re trying to change one person, transform an organization, or shift the way an entire industry does business, you can learn how to become a catalyst.Free book, podcast summaries

Change is hard

Inertia is a powerful force that can make change seem impossible. Just like objects at rest tend to stay at rest, people and organizations tend to do what they’ve always done. When we try to overcome this inertia, our instinct is to push harder, but that often backfires.

People don’t respond well to being pushed and tend to push back. So, to achieve real change, we need to find new ways to inspire and motivate people to want to change on their own.

A Better way to change minds

To facilitate change, chemists often use a special set of substances. These unsung heroes clean the exhaust in your car and the grime on your contact lenses. They turn air into fertilizer and petroleum into bike helmets. They speed change, enabling molecules that might take years to interact to do so in seconds.

Rather than pushing, they lower the barriers to change. And these substances are called catalysts.

Generating change is not about being more convincing or a better persuader. Instead, it’s about being a catalyst—changing minds by removing roadblocks and lowering the barriers that keep people from taking action.

Five key roadblocks that hinder or inhibit change

Reactance, Endowment, Distance, Uncertainty, and Corroborating Evidence can be called the five horsemen of inertia.

These five ways to be a catalyst can be organized into an acronym. Catalysts reduce Reactance, ease Endowment, shrink Distance, alleviate Uncertainty, and find Corroborating Evidence.

Taken together, that forms an acronym, REDUCE. Which is exactly what great catalysts do. They REDUCE roadblocks. They change minds and incite action by reducing barriers to change.


Reactance is a psychological phenomenon where people become resistant to persuasion when they feel their freedom is threatened. People have a need for autonomy and to feel in control of their actions. Warnings or instructions to not do something can actually make people more likely to do it, generating reactance.

Any effort to encourage people to change their behavior can be seen as impinging on their freedom and autonomy, leading to the opposite response.

Reducing resistance to change

To reduce resistance to change, it’s important to allow for agency by finding a middle ground between being too directive and too hands-off. Four ways to do this are to provide a menu of options, ask questions instead of making statements, highlight gaps in behavior, and start by understanding and building trust.

Allowing people to choose their path and providing personalized options increases buy-in and motivation for action.

Highlighting gaps in behavior can create cognitive dissonance, motivating people to align their attitudes and actions. Starting with understanding and building trust is important for effective persuasion and creating long-term partnerships.


There are a few ways to ease endowment and encourage people to make changes.

One way is to surface the cost of inaction, helping people to see the downsides of sticking with the status quo.

Another way is to “burn the ships,” which involves making inaction less attractive or even impossible, thus encouraging people to consider new options.

By highlighting the costs of inaction and removing the safety net of the status quo, people may be more motivated to make changes and pursue new opportunities

Evidence doesn’t work!

When trying to change minds, we hope that evidence will work. That giving people facts, figures, and other information will encourage them to move in our direction. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

Numerous studies, whether examining medicine, politics, or other areas, have found that evidence that was supposed to change minds didn’t always work. Sometimes it made people more likely to believe the truth, but other times it just reaffirmed falsehoods.

Rather than changing false beliefs, exposure to the truth often increased misperceptions. Giving people correct information made them more likely to believe the exact opposite.

The region of rejection

“The region of rejection” refers to the zone around people’s beliefs where they are unwilling to consider new ideas. Catalysts can avoid this zone by finding the movable middle, where people are more likely to shift their position, or by asking for less to make change more manageable.

They can also switch the field and find an unsticking point by exploring related directions where people are not so dug in. To be successful, it’s important to locate potential users who need the offering, chunk the change into smaller, more manageable pieces, and start with the areas of agreement to build from there.


Uncertainty is the devaluation of things uncertain when choosing between a sure thing and a risky one. Change almost always involves some degree of uncertainty, which causes people to be less interested in changing.

There are four key ways to reduce uncertainty by lowering the barrier to trial: harness freemium, reduce up-front costs, drive discovery, and make it reversible.

For example, Dropbox grew by giving its service away for free through freemium, while Zappos overcame the uncertainty tax by launching free shipping, reducing the up-front cost. Supermarkets offering free samples or companies with lenient return policies drive discovery and make it reversible.

Corroborating Evidence

Corroborating evidence is crucial when it comes to changing minds and opinions. People try to make sense of recommendations and translate them to see if they are informative or diagnostic. When multiple sources say or do the same thing, it adds credibility, legitimacy, and reinforcement.

The more similar these sources are to the individual, the greater the impact. Concentrating proof in a short period boosts its effectiveness, and spreading out recommendations can mute their effect. When trying to change minds, it’s important to consider who, when, and how the corroborating evidence is presented.

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