Monday, April 30, 2012

Made To Stick [Book Review]

I recently finished Made to Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath. While visiting a Willamette professor, we traded reading recommendations. I recommended Tell To Win and he recommended Made to Stick. Both are excellent books, but I need to reserve Made to Stick in it's own special place.

This book was by far the best book I've read in the last 5 years. That's saying something! I'd put it next to The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini in terms of awesomeness and insight.

OK. So why the love fest?

The book explores why some ideas survive and others die. It's full of research and stories explaining the components of "sticky ideas" - ideas that are useful and lasting. Plus, it gives a checklist to create sticky ideas.

A fun side note: Chip & Dan are brothers who both studied sticky ideas for their professional careers. Though, it wasn't until they read Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point (another excellent book), where Gladwell coined the phrase "sticky ideas" for them. They suddenly realized they had actually been studying the same idea from different angles. In The Tipping Point Gladwell says to "create a sticky ideas" to help thing reach their tipping point, but then moves on. The Heath brothers made this as a quasi-companion piece (maybe, more like a spin-off), that actually explains how to create sticky ideas.

Here's a quick overview of the book, but you really should read it yourself.

For an idea to stick, for it to be useful and lasting, it needs to make the audience:

  1. Pay attention by doing something unexpected
  2. Understand and remember the information by being concrete
  3. Agree/believe the information by being credible
  4. Care by tapping into their emotions
  5. Be able to act upon it, which is best illustrated with a story

Unfortunately, we have something called "the curse of knowledge" which makes it extremely hard to communicate sticky ideas. You see, the more we understand an idea, the harder it is to break it down into simple examples. Or, we tend to make jumps in logic because we intuitively understand all the background implications. This makes it difficult for our audience.

To help, the Heath brothers created the SUCCESS formula which you can use to create sticky ideas. Again, this is only a very quick overview. The book has plentiful examples and explanations.
  1. Simple
    1. Find the core of your ideas - the single most important thing. Then share the core idea.
    2. Example: The military uses a term called "Commander's Intent". The commanding officer doesn't tell his subordinates how to do their job, but instead specifies the outcome: "hold this hill". How they do it doesn't matter, and the directions are pretty clear.
  2. Unexpected
    1. Get their attention by doing something surprising. Then hold their attention by creating mystery by highlighting a gap in their knowledge.
    2. Nightly news example: "Stay tuned to find out which pills in your bathroom could be killing you".
  3. Concrete
    1. Use examples. Put people in those examples. Make it tangible. Do NOT talk about data. (I was a little sad to read this... :-)
    2. Proverbs take simple ideas and turn them into real examples. Example: the boy who cried wolf.
  4. Credible
    1. People won't believe you if you don't have credibility. You can get it from external sources, or internal sources.
    2. External example: celebrity endorsements, customer testimonies
    3. Internal example: testable credentials: "Where's the beef?" invited customers to check out the size of Wendy's hamburgers for themselves. It worked.
  5. Emotional
    1. Make people care by appealing to their self-interest and identity.
    2. Example: an anti-litter campaign used the phrase "Don't Mess With Texas" to tell people not to litter, and thereby trashing their state. Guys in big trucks connected with that line and stopped littering.
  6. Stories
    1. Stories tell people how to act by simulating what they should do and/or providing inspiration.
    2. Example: The boy who cried wolf proverb is a great example of using a story to provide inspiration.

That's a quick overview. I HIGHLY recommend reading this book. I'll probably end up reading it again to just make sure I catch everything.

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