Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Made to Stick

Last year I read an article in US News and World Report about Chip and Dan Heath, brothers who wrote a book together called Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. I enjoyed the article so much, I tore it out of the magazine to remind myself to read the book.

Of course, I didn't remember it until I spotted the book on the shelf behind the registers at the bookstore mentioned in the previous post. I was thrilled to find it available at my local library.

Now that I've finished it, I wished I had bought a copy at the bookstore so I could highlight it. Actually, I think it will go on my 'books-to-own' list because they have a really cool 'cheat sheet' (or Clif Notes) at the end of the book.

So what is this book about, and why is it so interesting to me? Well, it's a book about communicating ideas. Some might think that it's a book for marketers, which it kind of is, but it's more than that. It's really for anyone who wants to communicate ideas - from teachers to preachers, from parents to marketers, and anyone in between.

I think I knew quite a few of the principles the Heath brothers share in this book. However, the book gives me a big picture and a great outline for making ideas stick and communicating effectively. And, as an added bonus, this book is easy to read - even though Chip Heath is a professor at Stanford University. They've done a good job of creating a book that 'sticks.'

So, what exactly makes ideas stick?
Ideas must be simple
Ideas must be unexpected
Ideas must be concrete
Ideas must be credible
Ideas must be emotional
Ideas must be communicated in stories

Actually, ideas don't NEED to be all of the above, but the more categories checked off, the better chance of people remembering it. And, what's the point of communicating ideas if people don't remember them?

Sprinkled throughout the book are "Clinics," where the Heaths share real-life circumstances and how the principles they discuss makes a difference.

For example, did you know that the slogan "Don't Mess with Texas" started as an anti-littering campaign? That's one sticky idea that grew to have a life of its own.

Of course, you can't have a book about sticky ideas without plenty of stories of Nordstrom's customer service (like the ones from my sister's blog), which this one does. But the Heaths include plenty of other stories, including ones from a high school journalism class, from the World Bank, from a non-profit seminar in Florida (among plenty of others).

One of the most important ideas the authors discuss in the book is the "Curse of Knowledge." It's hard for us to imagine not knowing what it is we know, so it's hard for us to communicate in ways that people without our knowledge base can understand. "You know things that others don't know, and you can't remember what it was like not to know those things. So when you get around to sharing the Answer, you'll tend to communicate as if your audience were you." (pg 245)

"This book is filled with normal people facing normal problems who did amazing things simply by applying these principles (even if they weren't aware that they were doing it). ... Their names aren't sticky, but their stories are." (pg 251)

Made to Stick is a practical tool for normal people who need to communicate ideas and want people to remember those ideas. Put it on your list!


Brenda Gabriel said...

Thanks, I put it on my list.

swede said...

Where is the link to my blog about Nordstrom customer service?

Michelle said...

I thought you could put that in yourself... :) I forgot where to find your blog. I'm a bad sister. I know. Flog me now.

Michelle said...

Carrie -
notice the link in my blog.

notice that I've added your blog to my blog list.

I will now follow your blog religiously, as any good sister would.

Love you! :)