Book Review - Made to Stick

March 14, 2016
Book Reviews

No matter who we are - the owner of a small business, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the head of a non-profit, or the parent of an elementary school student - we all share the same stock in trade. Ideas. We have something in our head that we want to convey into the heads of someone else.     

In case you question this assertion - after all you sell hard physical products, not soft consulting ideas - remember that to sell those products you need to communicate to potential customers why they need those products.  In particular, they need to know why they need your products. In other words, you need to convey an idea. Even more, you want to make that potential customer act on that idea. How do we increase the likelihood that our ideas produce an action? The first step is to make that idea stand out in a soundscape of competing noises. We need to make our ideas stick.     

In Made To Stick, Chip and Dan Heath have provided an interesting road map to creating and conveying ideas that stick. Sticky ideas take more than a slick Powerpoint presentation. Developed from the examination and analysis of hundreds of “sticky ideas,” the Heath brothers present six essential qualities of a sticky idea:

  1. Simplicity:  A simple message combines the core essential of the idea with a simple expression that is easy to understand and remember.
  2. Unexpectedness: Ideas that are conveyed in a manner that violates basic expectations catch people’s attention because surprise makes people pay attention and think.  But people remain interested in those ideas when the surprise creates a gap between what we know and what we want to know.
  3. Concreteness:  People understand and remember ideas that are concrete more effectively than ideas that are abstract.  
  4. Credibility:  A sticky idea must be one that its hearers find credible.  Credibility can be created using external sources, compelling details, statistics, a fortiori arguments, and testable credentials.
  5. Emotions:  People will not take action regarding an idea unless they care about that idea. People will care about an idea only when the idea touches their emotions; not in a sappy, tear jerking manipulation but in a way that creates empathy for specific individuals or self-interest. 
  6. Stories:  Communicating our ideas through stories ties together the previous qualities of a sticky idea.  As an idea’s credibility makes people believe and its emotional impact makes them care, an idea conveyed in a story that is simple and concrete with unexpected elements informs people how to act on the idea and gives them motivation to engage in that action.  

 Memorizing these six principles, however, fails to do justice to the ideas that the Heath brothers present in their book.  The insights drawn from the numerous examples of each of these qualities - both positive and negative - are what sets this book apart.     

Made To Stick is not a lengthy book; nor is it one that takes a long time to read. Its value, however, far exceeds the minimal time commitment.

Randy Merritt

Randy Merritt has practiced law for nearly twenty years in Los Angeles and now in Elk Grove.  Always searching for new opportunities to learn, Randy spends much of his free time reading about a  broad variety of subjects, including history, communication, public policy, and anything written by Stephen King and Neil Gaiman.  When he isn't reading, writing, or spending time with his family, Randy enjoys another of his passions - baseball.  Click on the picture for more information about Randy.

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