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Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions

Kawasaki, G. 2011. Portfolio, New York, NY 214 p., incl. index. [ISBN 978-1-59184-379-5. US$26.95.]

by Geoff Hart

Previously published as: Hart, G. 2012. Book review: Enchantment: the art of changing hearts, minds, and actions. Technical Communication 59(1):74–75.

Enchantment: The art of changing hearts, minds, and actions is about “delighting people with a product, service, organization, or idea” (p. xix), thereby creating voluntary, long-lasting, mutually beneficial support. Kawasaki’s aim (as in his previous books) is to change the world for the better, following sound ethical principles. He emphasizes that people must like and trust you before you can enchant them, and honors this principle by consistently conveying a likeable, trustworthy persona—and one with a gentle sense of humor. He clearly wants to share his enchantment, and generally succeeds.

This book resembles an interaction-design primer for messages rather than products, but products are never far from the surface. Both are appropriate subjects for enchantment, yet the book sometimes strikes an awkward balance between message and product. Kawasaki assumes you understand key terms (e.g., tweets, RSS), leading to superficial treatment of some techniques. If you already understand the tools, you’ll cope, but neophytes will have to do some homework. Fortunately, a two-page bibliography lists 20 key books that inspired Enchantment, and relevant Web links (not all free) are sprinkled throughout.

Enchantment will excite and inspire experienced readers, but may overwhelm neophytes. For instance, the chapters on push and pull technologies seemed scattershot at times, aiming for many targets but hitting few solidly. Both chapters emphasize sound principles that apply with any technology, echoing Kawasaki’s emphasis on people over technology. Indeed, he even provides suggestions on how to deal with people who aren’t as nice as he is. In my experience, there are many bad guys out there, and although Kawasaki focuses consistently on the positive, he provides tips on how to enchant the bad guys, avoid their enchantments, or reach a modus vivendi.

Kawasaki’s advice seems reasonable and matches my experience, but like most business-oriented books, Enchantment sometimes relies more on anecdata than on rigorous studies, and some cause-and-effect relationships seemed tenuous. In his defense, he never calls an idea more reliable than the evidence merits, and clearly presents the weaker advice as suggestions, not facts. Such suggestions are worth trying because Kawasaki’s experience (he’s a veteran enchanter) lends them credibility, and the cost of failure will typically be low.

Enchantment probably isn’t for you if you’re completely new to this topic (too overwhelming) or an experienced pro (not enough meat). The ideal reader is someone who’s already familiar with audience needs, seeking insights on how to better meet those needs, and willing to do the work required to flesh out Kawasaki’s advice. If you’re such a reader, you’ll find Enchantment a call to action to fine-tune what you’re already doing and start doing new things. The table of contents provides an effective checklist for such efforts, and there’s a useful quiz at the end to help you recall what you’ve learned.

Was I enchanted? Mostly. Kawasaki’s a charming and trustworthy guide, offers a cornucopia of intriguing and insightful suggestions, and inspired me to try his suggestions in my own work.

As a working editor, Geoff Hart strives to enchant his authors, and is now equipped to do a better job of this in the future.

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