MADE TO STICK: WHY SOME IDEAS SURVIVE AND OTHERS DIE (New York: Random House, 2007)

Every once in a while I come across a book that I think, “Keeper. This book is a keeper.”

Most books I read have a one-time-through mentality and then take away a key point.

Made to Stick is not that type of book.

It’s becoming a go-to reference for me.

The essence of the book is this: what makes some ideas “sticky” in others remembering them so they transform the way people think? As the authors state,

Sticky = understandable, memorable, and effective in changing thought or behavior.

For example, back some years ago, there was this scare-story going around about parents being more alert during Halloween because “someone” was putting razor blades into candied apples or sabotaging kids’ candy.

Do you remember that? Oh I do. Where did that story even come from anyway? Two sociologists began to work on this rumor and studied every Halloween reported incident since 1958. What did they find out? That it was an idea that “stuck” but that had no truth behind it.

After reading this book, I came to realize its application was far wider than I had originally anticipated, and that its principles could impact many different types of people.

Like who?

Those who cast vision. Those who explain processes. Those who are creative. Those who desire to communicate with clarity. Those who want their ideas to generate transformative thinking.

This book is not the “silver bullet” that by following certain steps you are guaranteed success. Instead, think of this text like a framework which can be used to build any idea and remove the “clutter” that keeps it from being effective. For me, it is becoming a grid through which I view ideas or communications.

And I realized how much I needed this framework because of what the authors call the Curse of Knowledge – in other words, it is very challenging, in working through ideas to present to others, to think of what is was like before I knew that knowledge.

Made to Stick offers six principles to its readers that will change how you think. So let’s get into them.

  1. Simple – find the core of your idea, that single most important thing that truly defines your thought. Not cores but core. We are inundated with information. People remember one key idea. And then once you establish the core, make it compact in how that core is communicated. And while keeping it compact, communicate your idea in such a way that it latches onto something that is familiar to the listener. Identity.

    “Finding the core” means stripping an idea down to its most critical essence.

  2. Unexpected – communicate your idea in such a way that it breaks the pattern of what people think they are going to hear. Surprise them. Keep their attention by addressing the gaps in their knowledge. Curiosity rises as people begin to understand the gap in their own knowledge and realize that you are going to bridge it. Generate mystery.

    One important implication of the gap theory is that we need to open gaps before we close them. Our tendency is to tell people the facts. First, though, they must realize that they need these facts.

  3. Concrete – help your people both to understand an idea and remember it through tangible stories that involve them. Our memories are like velcro, so ensure that people listening to your idea have plenty of “hooks” to attach to the “loops” of their thinking.

    Language is often abstract, but life is not abstract.

  4. Credible – help people believe that what you are communicating is both true and rationale. Contextualize details in the human and everyday.

    How do we get people to believe our ideas? We’ve got to find a source of credibility to draw on.

  5. Emotional – make people care about your idea. No care = no action. 

    How  can we make people care about our ideas? 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.

  6. Stories – telling stories gets people to act on an idea. Tell stories either to stimulate people in how they should act or tell stories to inspire people with the energy to be able to act. Stories connect people to ideas.

    This is the role that stories play – putting knowledge into a framework that is more lifelike, more true to our day-to-day existence.

I think the final sentence in the book explains why this book has such importance for many of us: 

And that’s the great thing about the world of ideas – any of us, with the right insight and the right message, can make an idea stick.

 

 

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