Bob Sutton (author of The No Asshole Rule and other books well worth reading) recommended a number of business books this year, and I am steadily working my way through them. Here’s my post on Bob Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (big thumbs up). Now I’m liking Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by the brothers Heath (Chip and Dan). The book’s purpose is to explore the reasons why some ideas stick with us, while other ideas – which may be just as valuable or even more valuable – die. Why is everyone so convinced that there is a kidney theft ring preying on tourists in (insert the name of big city here)? Why did hospitals in small towns across America actually x-ray kids’ Halloween candy throughout the 1980s and 90s?
With examples drawn from pop culture, business, politics, education and more, the Heath brothers explain what makes ideas sticker:
- Simple – Ten point PowerPoints are nine points too many. The best, most memorable mesages are simple and profound.
- Unexpected – Violate people’s expectations. Engage their curiosity.
- Concrete – We’re hard-wired to latch on to concrete info. Lofty language and business-speak drift effortlessly in one ear and out the other.
- Credible – Sticky ideas need to be believable, all on their own.
- Emotional – Grab an emotion – fear, love, nostalgia – and an idea gains traction.
- Stories – A list of facts is blah. Add people and plot to the facts and suddenly, you’ve got a story to remember.
That spells Success (minus the final S). I labored to come up with a final S, just to round it out. Superlatives? As in make the story have impact. Sexy? As in tap into what’s hot. Call me shallow, but I think we could make either of these additional S words work.
But “Succes(s)” is just a way to organize the book, and what works about Made to Stick is that the ideas are easy to understand, there are tons of examples, and you can use the easy “scorecard” technique – which is demonstrated with multiple case studies throughout the book -to evaluate how to improve your idea presentation to make it stickier. The section on Sticky Advice (the “extra info” that makes this edition of the book “extra sticky”) applies the Made to Stick principles to business management and to education. I found the business examples most relevant, but also learned from the education perspective.
Other “extra info” that I liked included the Easy Reference Guide (quick examples); the notes, so that if you want to dig a little deeper into a reference, you can do so; and the index, which makes it easy to refer back to principles and examples.