on September 26, 2007
I work in advertising and I have never before read a book that so elegantly describes what we aspire to do when we create ads - we circumvent people's guessing DNA. After reading this book I was inspired to change the way I presented a creative concept to a client. Instead of walking through the benefits of the creative - design, style, simplicity, etc.. I walked in the room and did the unexpected - I told them their organization wasn't progressive enough to embrace our concept (which, by the way, was the gist of the creative). In effect, I circumvented their guessing DNA and got their attention, which is what the ads were designed to do. The presentation went off without a hitch and the client loved the idea. This book also served notice to our team to find the most poignant meaning in the facts (great example featuring Nora Ephron in journalism school).
This is a fantastic book for any executive who ever thinks she will ever inspire her workforce by issuing a statement that reeks of corporate-speak (i.e. managing the cost infrastructure to ensure profitability through multiple verticals, etc..), instead of keeping things simple - not dumbing down, but simple. Take it from a guy whose livelihood relies on keeping things simple - it's the most difficult thing to do.
Jake, a young entrepreneurial friend of mine in the IT industry , was not seeing the results he expected from numerous and inventive marketing strategies. He had tried online, print and direct marketing with marginal results. His business wasn't faltering but wasn't soaring either. So after a slew of marketing books he came across this one- and it was all I was hearing about from him until I read it myself and the light bulb clicked.
Just like you were interested in Jake's story other people like stories, they want to relate to you and your product but if they can't they will find a company that they can relate to.
Chip and Dan Heath give great examples every chapter on how to improve your "Stickiness" with simple strategies. The most important being their coined,
S simple - don't lose your core message in a lot of pomp and circumstance
U unexpected - make your idea jump out and grab people's attention
C concrete - keep it easy to grasp vs. mind boggling statistics or huge numbers
C credible - is your idea believable?
E emotional - people react to emotion and it creates an empathetic bond
S stories - story telling is an age old form of communication
I have been able to use "Made To Stick" concepts in my business with great results. I used to feel that stories in real estate investing wouldn't interest anyone but I knew from the book that stories were useful, if not crucial, in creating and growing a business. Now by using my customer's concrete feedback blended with their credible testimonials and sprinkled with a little emotion I am able transmit their core experience (what they got out of working with us an how it translated to their bottom line) to reach a greater audience.
Danielle Millar, Glenn Simon Inc.
This is one of the most entertaining as well as one of the most thought-provoking and informative books I have read in recent years. Chip Heath and his brother Dan examine an especially important challenge to everyone who struggles to formulate and then communicate ideas that "stick": That is, ideas that "are understood and remembered, and have a lasting impact - they change your audience's opinions or behavior." Extensive research indicates that each of us receives several thousand messages each day from various print and electronic media as well as from those with whom we have direct contact. These competing messages create "clutter" that is increasingly more difficult to penetrate.
Others have already explained why they hold this book in high regard. Here are three reasons of mine. First, the Heaths brilliantly explain how to nurture ideas that will succeed by penetrating the clutter and then sticking in a "noisy, unpredictable, chaotic environment." They stress the importance of simplicity (i.e. "finding the core of the idea"), of surprise to attract attention and then interest to keep that attention, of concreteness ("language is often abstract, but life is not abstract"), of credibility (hence the importance of verifiable details), of emotion (i.e. making people care), and of storytelling that provides stimulation (knowledge about how to act) and inspiration (motivation to act). The Heaths' own explanation of all this "sticks" because it possesses the same qualities to which the acronym SUCCESs refers: their explanation is guided and informed by Simple Unexpected Concrete Credible Emotional Stories.
Also, I greatly appreciate the Heaths' use of real-world situations that demonstrate why some ideas "stick" and most others don't. For example, in Chapter 5, the Heaths examine efforts to reduce litter in Texas. The state was spending $25-million a year on cleanup and costs were increasing 15% a year. Efforts to encourage better behavior (such as use of "Please Don't Litter" signs and roadside trash cans marked "Pitch In") weren't working because they weren't effective as appeals to emotion. What to do? How and why "Don't mess with Texas" stuck is best revealed within the narrative. My point now is that this and dozens of other examples give a stickiness to the Heaths' key points. Again, how they organize and present their material penetrates the clutter that (at last count) 432,367 books on communication offered by Amazon have helped to create...and that number does not include seminars, workshops, CD, DVDs, Web sites, and articles.
Key Point: Whether devising a campaign to eliminate litter or writing a book about penetrating clutter, ideas must "stick" to have any visibility and "traction" to have any impact. I agree with Thomas Edison: "Vision without execution is hallucination."
My third reason is an entirely personal one: I like to be entertained while reading a non-fiction book about effective communication. The Heaths share their insights with a light, almost playful touch. They seem to have a robust sense of humor. They not only know their stuff, they thoroughly enjoy sharing what they have learned. And they constantly cite sources that have helped them to increase their understanding of "why some ideas survive and others die." Three in particular are worth noting here: Robert Cialdini on the importance of using mysteries to reach "a higher level of unexpectedness," Robert McKee on the importance of using curiosity to fill the intellectual need to answer questions and close open patterns, and Gary Klein on how stories "illustrate causal relationships that people hadn't recognized before and highlight unexpected, resourceful ways in which people have solved problems." I highly recommend Cialdini's Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, McKee's Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting, and Klein's Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions and more recent The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work.
I wholly agree with Chip and Dan Heath that, contrary to what many people may believe, almost anyone can craft ideas that make a difference. "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." In this volume, the Heaths share all they have learned about how to do that. To paraphrase Henry Ford, whether you think you can or think you can't...you're right.
This is the best book about communications I've read since I discovered Stephen Denning's work on telling business stories. I highly recommend Made to Stick to all those who want to get their messages across in business more effectively.
Imagine if people remembered what you had to say and acted on it. Wouldn't that be great? What if people not only remembered and acted, but told hundreds of others who also acted and told? Now you're really getting somewhere!
Brothers Chip (an educational consultant and publisher) and Dan (a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Business School) Heath combine to develop Malcolm Gladwell's point about "stickiness" in The Tipping Point. To help you understand what they have in mind, the book opens with the hoary urban tale of the man who ends up in a bathtub packed with ice missing his kidney after accepting a drink from a beautiful woman. That story, while untrue, has virtually universal awareness. Many other untrue stories do, too, especially those about what someone found in a fast food meal.
The brothers Heath put memorable and quickly forgotten information side-by-side to make the case for six factors (in combination) making the difference between what's memorable and what isn't. The six factors are:
1. Simplicity (any idea over one is too many)
2. Unexpectedness (a surprise grabs our attention)
3. Concreteness (the more dimensions of details the more hooks our minds use to create a memory)
4. Credibility (even untrue stories don't stick unless there's a hint of truth, such as beware of what's too good to be true in the urban legend that opens the book)
5. Incite Emotions in Listeners (we remember emotional experiences much more than anything else; we care more about individuals than groups; and we care about things that reflect our identities)
6. Combine Messages in Stories (information is more memorable and meaningful in a story form . . . like the urban legend that opens the book)
Before commenting on the book further, I have a confession to make. This book has special meaning for me. I was one of the first people to employ and popularize the term "Maximize Shareholder Value" by making that the title of my consulting firm's annual report (Mitchell and Company) over 25 years ago when we began our practice in stock-price improvement. That term has become almost ubiquitous in CEO and CFO suites, but hasn't gone very far beyond the discussions of corporate leaders, investment bankers and institutional investors and analysts.
The authors use that term in the book as an example of a communication that hasn't stuck broadly. And they are right. Having watched that term over the years go into all kinds of unexpected places and be quoted by people who had no idea how to do it long ago convinced me of the wisdom of telling people what to do . . . not just what the objective is.
The authors make this point beautifully in citing Southwest Airline's goal of being "THE low-fare airline." If something conflicts with being a good low-fare airline at Southwest, it's obvious to everybody not to do it.
You'll probably find that some of the examples and lessons strike you right in the middle of the forehead, too. That's good. That's how we learn. I went back to a new manuscript I'm writing now and wrote a whole new beginning to better reflect the lessons in Made to Stick. I've also recommended the book already to about a dozen of my graduate business students. So clearly Made to Stick is sticking with me.
If you find yourself skipping rapidly through the book, be sure to slow down and pay attention on pages 247-249 where the authors take common communications problems and recommend what to do about them (such as how to get people to pay attention to your message). That's the most valuable part of the book. It integrates the individual points very effectively and succinctly.
I also liked the reference guide on pages 252-257 that outlines the book's contents. You won't need to take notes with this reference guide in place.
So why should you pay attention? The authors demonstrate with an exercise that people who know and use these principles are more successful in communicating through advertisements than those who are talented in making advertisements but don't know these principles. Without more such experiments, it's hard to know how broad the principle is . . . but I'm willing to assume that they have a point here.
No book is perfect: How could this one have been even better? Unlike Stephen Denning's wonderful books on storytelling, this book is more about the principles than how to apply the principles. I hope the authors will come back with many how-to books and workbooks.
I would also like to commend the book's cover designer for doing such a good job of simulating a piece of duct tape on the dust jacket. That feature adds to the stickiness of this book.
Persuasiveness has always been a very important aspect of advertising, politics, and a myriad other professions that rely heavily on the opinions and attitudes of others in order to exist and make an impact on the world. For the better or worse, in modern world an increasing number of professions fall into this category. Weather we are trying to teach someone a new skill, persuade a boss or a colleague, or ace a job interview, we need to be able to present our ideas effectively. We need to make them stick.
"Made to Stick" expands on the idea of "stickiness" popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in "The Tipping Point." Brothers Heath have spent many years working in their respective fields - organizational behavior and education - and have jointly come up with their idea of what makes ideas particularly "sticky." Their prescription, and the outline of this book, is organized around the acronym SUCCES (with last s omitted):
* Simple -- find the core of any idea
* Unexpected -- grab people's attention by surprising them
* Concrete -- make sure an idea can be grasped and remembered later
* Credible -- give an idea believability
* Emotional -- help people see the importance of an idea
* Stories -- empower people to use an idea through narrative
The book provides many useful examples and anecdotes that make these concepts stand out and become relevant in your own life. In fact, it follows more or less its own prescription, which is one of the reasons why it's such a good read. After going through it I've found myself thinking about making my own writing (and hopefully my Amazon reviews in particular) stickier.
One caveat about the books and works of this kind is the same one that has been at the root of all the criticisms of persuasiveness, from Socrates to this day. Just making ideas sticky and memorable does not make them any more relevant or even true. I can think of many examples of sticky ideas in today's culture and politics, and even in this very book, that have gotten much more attention and credibility because of their stickiness. Ultimately, it is our own responsibility to be alert and vigilant for the discrepancies between flowery rhetoric and the content of the message. This has been one constant throughout the history of our culture and society.
on December 14, 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Made to Stick", and I find that the ideas and tools presented by the two authors are useful for a number of different professions, whether it be politics, journalism, management, marketing, etc.
This book essentially helps you improve communication by teaching you very relevant and useful skills in conveying your ideas in a more efficient manner, and making sure they "stick". The book combines both a theoretical and practical approach, making great use of examples, case studies and even small exercises that go hand in hand with the lessons being taught to the reader.
Although a lot of books which teach "AMAZING skills for success" end up being big flops and conveying little more than obvious points, I was impressed not only by the usefulness of skills taught in this book, but also by the way in which they were taught. Clearly the authors demonstrated that they truly know how to make ideas "stick".
Just some of the examples the authors used in the earlier parts of the book include the "Commander's Intent" utilized by the US Army to help soldiers execute plans more effectively, showing the reader how Southwest Airlines used the simple tagline "THE low-fare airline" to help employees of all levels understand the company philosophy better than a tirade of complicated memos and corporate objectives, or explaining how journalists accidentally "bury the lead" and ruin the message that their story is supposed to convey. Moreover the authors explain each case study in detail and take apart the single most important thing to learn from them, making sure that each example leaves the reader with a key piece of knowledge that they will not only be able to add on to the other lessons in the book, but which they will also be highly likely to remember once they put the book down.
I would highly recommend "Made to Stick" to anyone who is interested in making sure their ideas make a bigger impact, whether it be journalists/bloggers trying to write better articles, managers trying to get their teams on par with their goals, people involved in marketing, teachers who want their students to understand the material better, or just anyone who could benefit from better communication skills.
on September 23, 2009
If you work in advertising, read this book! This is one of the few books out there that effectively explains what many in the advertising industry knew on an intuitive level, but have likely had a hard time verbalizing. Brothers Heath pull it together for you. In an increasingly cluttered ad world, any piece of arsenal to help you get your idea to be noticed, and remembered, is useful indeed. If you have ever had a hard time explaining, justifying, or just plain convincing a client to do something a little different and perhaps risky, you need to put this book on your shelf. Or better yet, put it in your client's hands. I heard Dan speak at a BCAMA conference in Vancouver shortly after I had finished the book. He's a great speaker as well as writer, if you ever get the chance to see him.
My only criticism, and it's a small one, is that for some readers this book might be a little too academic in its approach. However, if you are one to seek out more than superficial explanations of why people behave they way then do, you will likely see this as a benefit.
on June 29, 2009
Despite great feedback and evaluations from my students and clients, every now and then I'll be asked a question that totally baffles me. "I thought they understood", my mind says. "Didn't I explain this clearly enough?", it wonders.
From colleagues, I learnt to make training engaging and interactive. The NLP courses I've taken taught me to choose words that fit my audience's preferred sensory representation for information (visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic), to choose language that passes mental filters and doesn't generate resistance, and to structure the material to fit various learning styles. And still, I get the occasional baffling questions. Not too often, but enough for me to notice.
The book, "Made To Stick", sheds a very powerful light on this very quandary. Its entire point is: anyone can have great ideas or messages, and to make them stick (take hold, propagate), they must be packaged and presented a certain way.
The authors have analyzed numerous successful and unsuccessful presentations of ideas, and offer very simple criteria for success. Have an idea? Package it this way:
- Simple: Focus on the compact, core message
- Unexpected: Surprise the listener/reader
- Concrete: Anchor the message in concrete examples
- Credible: Make sure the audience can agree that the message's believable
- Emotional: Have your audience feel the message, rather than analyze it
- Story: Rather than deliver the punchline, tell a story that engages the listener to identify the punchline
Of course, the authors wrote the book according to these very principles, so it's practical and extremely engaging from the very first page.
After 240 fascinating pages, the authors go back and *explain* the reasons for these criteria. For an idea to stick, for it to be useful and lasting, it has to make the audience pay attention, understand and remember it, agree and/or believe, care, and be able to act on it. I always took these matters for granted, hence my quandary; as they repeatedly explain, it's a problem every expert faces, and they have a name for it: The Curse of Knowledge. The book is incredibly useful because it recasts these criteria for stickiness as a simple checklist of the six principles above (whose very surprising acronym is SUCCESs).
Since reading this book, I've had occasion to practise with its ideas in emails and meetings, and the results have been very gratifying. I am looking forward to upgrading my training materials!
on July 10, 2011
The Heath bros. have written a comprehensive book on how ideas should be crafted to ensure they stick. The book does a good job treading the fine line between an academic and business audience, which is a feat in and of itself. This lends credence to what is being said, since you realize what they're saying has been vetted by both academia and the marketplace.
The book shows you why certain ideas sticks while others don't. It's extremely convincing and provides a few of those "ah-ha!" moments, where what they're saying is obvious, but only after they've said it. The best insight is what they call the 'curse of knowledge'. Every professional suffers from the curse of knowledge. We get too close to a product or service and present it to the market through our personal lens which is full of knowledge, rather than a customer lens which is void of knowledge. This happens internally too, where the story we're telling is already full of assumptions that shouldn't be there.
Really quick--before you have time to think--grab a pen and a pad of yellow sticky notes. Yes, they have to be yellow. Write down the following six principles of memorable messages:
It's a shame you're not in a bookstore right now--you could just tear the definitions right off of the dust jacket. Never mind. Now give yourself a moment to let your irritation pass at the cuteness of the first letters spelling out "success." There it goes. Not so bad, really. No worse than some of those sales management acronyms.
Now put this sticky note up where you work. And think about it for a day or two. Then read this book. I'm not saying buy it, necessarily. But read it. It will help you make your messages mighty and memorable. Tell people I said so. Yell it at them if you have to.