Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck


Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
Publisher: Arrow
Published: 2/7/2008
What is that makes urban myths so persistent but many everyday truths so eminently forgettable? How do newspapers set about ensuring that their headlines make you want to read on? And why do we remember complicated stories but not complicated facts? In the course of over ten years of study, Chip and Dan Heath have established what it is that determines whether particular ideas or stories stick in our minds or not.

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

"When an expert asks, 'Will people understand my idea?,' her answer will be Yes, because she herself understands." ‐ Chip & Dan Heath

The curse of knowledge makes us believe that other people share our interests and care about our ideas as much as we do. It makes it hard for us to share our message with others.

Ideas that are sticky:

  • Keep it simple.

What is one thing that you want the audience to remember? When campaigning in 1992, Bill Clinton had trouble staying on point and wanted to address every issue at a time. James Carville helped him focus by writing the message, "It's the economy stupid" on the whiteboard. Keeping it simple makes ideas more natural to convey.

  • Say unexpected things.

"Tell them something that is uncommon sense," says Chip and Heath.

  • Keep it concrete.

When Trader Joe's explains their target customer, they don't say "upscale budget-conscious customer," they say "unemployed college professor." Use concrete language that everyone understands without jargon: "The beauty of concrete language—language that is specific and sensory—is that everyone understands your message in a similar way." – Chip & Dan Heath

  • Keep it credible.

Using extreme anecdotes with vivid detail helps. For example, when the directors of Liz Lerman Dance Exchange company tried to convince a workshop for people that their core value is diversity, people were skeptical. An artistic director responded by saying that "the longest‐term member of our company is a seventy‐three‐year‐old man named Thomas Dwyer…" This detail—seventy‐three‐year‐old Thomas Dwyer—silenced the skepticism in the room." ‐ Chip & Dan Heath

  • Keep it emotional.

In a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University in 2004, researchers found that people were more likely to donate money when told that the money would help a starving seven-year old girl in Africa. They were less likely to donate when told that the money would help about 3 million starving children in Africa. A personal story about yourself, someone you now, or someone you read about gets the audience in their shoes and helps them feel the same struggle and success. "If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will." ‐ Mother Teresa

  • Tell a story.

"Telling stories with visible goals and barriers shifts the audience into a problem‐solving mode.... (we) empathize with the main characters and start cheering them on when they confront their problems: "Look out behind you!" "Tell him off now!" "Don't open that door!" ‐ Chip & Dan Heath.

Engaging stories keep the audience wondering, "What's going to happen next?" and "How is this going to end?"

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