Friday, March 23, 2007

Latest Book I Read: Made To Stick

I just finished the book "Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die" by the brothers Chip and Dan Heath. It currently has 5/5 stars from 54 Amazon reviewers. Here's a link to the book's official web site. Guy Kawasaki blogged about it back in January. I had the book back then, but was in the middle of Paradise Lost at the time.

Made to Stick presents some compelling ideas about what makes an idea stick in the minds of people. It includes a tremendous amount of related stories, applications, anecdotes, observations, and conclusions. Frankly, I think it contains way too much of that. Maybe I'm just easily convinced, and don't need that much supporting information. For the benefit of our sound-bite culture, the authors have even constructed a convenient acronym to help us remember what makes ideas stick: SUCCES. Due to a combination of my own laziness and lack of eloquence, I'll quote from John Moore's blog to outline the meaning of SUCCES.

“It’s hard to make ideas stick in a noisy, unpredictable, chaotic environment. If we’re to succeed, the first step is this: Be simple. Not simple in terms of ‘dumbing down’ or ‘sound bites.’ What we mean by ‘simple’ is finding the core of the idea. ‘Finding the core’ means stripping an idea down to its most critical essence.” (pgs. 27, 28)

“The most basic way to get someone’s attention is this: Break a pattern. Humans adapt incredibly quickly to consistent patterns. Figure out what is counterintuitive about the message—i.e., What are the unexpected implications of your core message? Communicate your message in a way that breaks your audiences’ guessing machines.” (pgs. 64, 72)

“Abstraction makes it harder to understand an idea and to remember it. It also makes it harder to coordinate our activities with others, who may interpret the abstraction in very different ways. Concreteness helps us avoid these problems.” (pg. 100)

“How do we get people to believe our ideas? We’ve got to find a source of credibility to draw on. A person’s knowledge of details is often a good proxy for her expertise. Think of how a history buff can quickly establish her credibility by telling an interesting Civil War anecdote. But concrete details don’t just lend credibility to the authorities who provide them; they lend credibility to the idea itself.” (pgs. 138, 163)

“How can we make people care about our ideas? We get them to take off their Analytical Hats. We create empathy for specific individuals. We show how our ideas are associated with things that people already care about. We appeal to their self-interest, but we also appeal to their identities—not only to the people they are right now but also to the people they would like to be.” (pg. 203)

“A story is powerful because it provides the context missing from abstract prose. This is the role that stories play—putting knowledge into a framework that is more lifelike, more true to our day-to-day existence. Stories are almost always CONCRETE. Most of them have EMOTIONAL and UNEXPECTED elements. The hardest part of using stories effectively is make sure they’re SIMPLE—that they reflect your core message. It’s not enough to tell a great story; the story has to reflect your agenda.” (pgs. 214, 237)

... in closing...
“Those are the six principles of successful ideas. To summarize, here’s our checklist for creating a successful idea: a Simple Unexpected Concrete Credentialed Emotional Story. A clever observer will note that this sentence can be compacted into the acronym SUCCESs. This is sheer coincidence, of course. (Okay, we admit, SUCCESs is a little corny. We could have changed ‘Simple’ to ‘Core’ and reordered a few letters. But, you have to admit, CCUCES is less memorable.)” (pg. 18)

I recommend the book to anyone who wants people to remember their message. Beyond the obvious people in marketing and related spin-doctoring fields, this also includes professors, teachers, managers, executives, attorneys, engineers, parents ... well, almost all of us!

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