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Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Dieby Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Some ideas become success stories, others don't stick around. In this no-nonsense look at successful communication the brothers Heath examine the principles of "stickiness" considering the elements needed to make a particular idea take hold. An entertaining and often eye-opening read.
Synopses & Reviews
Mark Twain once observed, "A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on." His observation rings true: Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus public-health scares circulate effortlessly. Meanwhile, people with important ideas — business people, teachers, politicians, journalists, and others — struggle to make their ideas "stick."
Why do some ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas? In Made to Stick, accomplished educators and idea collectors Chip and Dan Heath tackle head-on these vexing questions. Inside, the brothers Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the "human scale principle," using the "Velcro Theory of Memory," and creating "curiosity gaps."
In this indispensable guide, we discover that sticky messages of all kinds — from the infamous "kidney theft ring" hoax to a coach's lessons on sportsmanship to a vision for a new product at Sony — draw their power from the same six traits.
Made to Stick is a book that will transform the way you communicate ideas. It's a fast-paced tour of success stories (and failures) — the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who drank a glass of bacteria to prove a point about stomach ulcers; the charities who make use of "the Mother Teresa Effect"; the elementary-school teacher whose simulation actually prevented racial prejudice. Provocative, eye-opening, and often surprisingly funny, Made to Stick shows us the vital principles of winning ideas — and tells us how we can apply these rules to making our own messages stick.
"Unabashedly inspired by Malcolm Gladwell's bestselling The Tipping Point, the brothers Heath — Chip a professor at Stanford's business school, Dan a teacher and textbook publisher — offer an entertaining, practical guide to effective communication. Drawing extensively on psychosocial studies on memory, emotion and motivation, their study is couched in terms of 'stickiness' — that is, the art of making ideas unforgettable. They start by relating the gruesome urban legend about a man who succumbs to a barroom flirtation only to wake up in a tub of ice, victim of an organ-harvesting ring. What makes such stories memorable and ensures their spread around the globe? The authors credit six key principles: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. (The initial letters spell out 'success' — well, almost.) They illustrate these principles with a host of stories, some familiar (Kennedy's stirring call to 'land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth' within a decade) and others very funny (Nora Ephron's anecdote of how her high school journalism teacher used a simple, embarrassing trick to teach her how not to 'bury the lead'). Throughout the book, sidebars show how bland messages can be made intriguing. Fun to read and solidly researched, this book deserves a wide readership." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"'If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.' So said Mother Teresa, and she was right. For a variety of reasons, some of them recently documented in laboratory studies by research psychologists, people who are either left cold or are overwhelmed when confronted with the suffering of thousands will rush into action when they are presented with a way to save one starving... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) child. 'Made to Stick,' by brothers Chip and Dan Heath, is an attempt to explain this peculiar fact and many others like it. Why is it that some ideas 'stick,' remaining vivid in memory and calling on people to act, whereas others just fade away? Is it in the nature of the ideas themselves, or does it have something to do with how they are 'packaged'? And if the latter, are there lessons to be learned about packaging that will help people who are trying to influence public opinion and action? The brothers Heath are in a good position to write such a book. Chip, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford, has actually done research on what makes ideas 'sticky.' Dan is co-founder of Thinkwell, a textbook company whose aim, of course, is to find a way to present information to students in a way that 'sticks.' And they have written a fine, 'sticky' book — one that lays out the determinants of stickiness; illustrates them with vivid examples from disparate settings (e.g., business, education and effective social movements); warns us of obstacles that must be negotiated if ideas are to be sticky; and provides a set of 'idea clinics,' examples of good ideas presented in not so good ways, along with steps to make them better. The reader also learns some important principles of modern psychology: about how memory is organized, about how emotion affects action, about how knowing too much can get in the way of effective communication and about the power of stories. Anyone interested in influencing others — to buy, to vote, to learn, to diet, to give to charity or to start a revolution — can learn from this book. The Heaths identify six core ingredients of stickiness, organized by the acronym 'SUCCES.' To stick, ideas should be Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotion-evoking and embedded in Stories. Each of these key features is illustrated with several examples. 'It's the economy, stupid,' James Carville's famous guide to Bill Clinton's campaign for president, embodies simplicity: 'If you say three things, you say nothing' was Carville's point. The willingness of Nordstrom employees to gift-wrap items purchased elsewhere is an example of the unexpected — the extraordinary service Nordstrom offers its customers. So was JFK's promise, out of the blue, to get a man on the moon. Teacher Jane Elliott of Riceville, Iowa, made racism concrete to her white, third-grade students on the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination by dividing up the class by eye color and making the division matter. Scientist Barry Marshall made credible to a disbelieving audience of his peers that ulcers are caused by bacteria by ingesting said bacteria and developing the symptoms of ulcers. A charity called World Vision applied Mother Teresa's lesson by inviting First World people to 'adopt' specific Third World children, each with a name, a face and a story. And TV producer Roone Arledge got people who didn't know the shape of a football to become sports fans by having his sportscasters tell one triumph-over-adversity story after another about the players, just as Subway, thanks to TV commercials dramatizing the weight loss of Jared Fogle, got Americans to think about fast food as diet food. I find the Heaths' analysis convincing and their recommendations quite helpful. I think I will be a better teacher if I keep SUCCES in mind when preparing materials for my classes. But at the same time, the very power of their story is troubling. For there are three other features of ideas that, to my mind, ought to be affecting their stickiness: Ideas should be socially beneficial, or Worthwhile; they should be Important; and, above all, they should be True (which is not the same as credible). SUCCES needs to be modified by WIT. Most of the examples discussed in the book have WIT, but this, I think, is the product of well-chosen examples. The tools of SUCCES in the hands of WITty people will serve us well, but these same tools, in the hands of mean-spirited people or charlatans, will do us in. We will be misled, misinformed and steered off course. In addition, as more people become SUCCESful, it will grow increasingly difficult for the WITty successful people to rise above water in a sea of bad, trivial, sticky ideas. The Heaths are mindful of this problem, though they don't address it directly. First, one of the things that initially piqued their interest in sticky ideas was 'urban legends,' pretty much all of which are sticky but false. It isn't the stickiness of 'ulcers are bacterial' that distinguishes it from urban legends; it's the truth value. Second, the Heaths acknowledge that their advice may cheapen the currency when they point out how it isn't enough to say that something is 'unusual' anymore; it has to be 'unique.' To put it another way, 'unusual' just isn't unusual enough to cut it anymore. And when everyone around you is applying SUCCES, you will have to exaggerate, distort or even lie to be noticed. What can we do to make the idea of global warming stick? I thought that in 'An Inconvenient Truth,' Al Gore (unlike 'Brownie') really did a heck of a job. Was it good enough? I have my doubts. And if not, is it because the thought of one-tenth of the world's people under water wasn't sticky enough or because we've already got too many ideas stuck to us already? Without some WIT to modulate SUCCES, I'm afraid we'll all end up drowning." Reviewed by
(hide most of this review)
"Exercises, checklists, and other tools are sprinkled throughout the book to help the reader understand and test how stickiness can be applied to their ideas, whether they are teachers, parents, or CEOs." Booklist
"That rare instance of a formula biz book backed up with dozens of compulsively readable theories, studies, and surveys." FastCompany
Mark Twain once observed, “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” His observation rings true: Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus public-health scares circulate effortlessly. Meanwhile, people with important ideas-business people, teachers, politicians, journalists, and others-struggle to make their ideas “stick.”
Why do some ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas? In Made to Stick, accomplished educators and idea collectors Chip and Dan Heath tackle head-on these vexing questions. Inside, the brothers Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the “human scale principle,” using the “Velcro Theory of Memory,” and creating “curiosity gaps.”
In this indispensable guide, we discover that sticky messages of all kinds-from the infamous “kidney theft ring” hoax to a coachs lessons on sportsmanship to a vision for a new product at Sony-draw their power from the same six traits.
Made to Stick is a book that will transform the way you communicate ideas. Its a fast-paced tour of success stories (and failures)-the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who drank a glass of bacteria to prove a point about stomach ulcers; the charities who make use of “the Mother Teresa Effect”; the elementary-school teacher whose simulation actually prevented racial prejudice. Provocative, eye-opening, and often surprisingly funny, Made to Stick shows us the vital principles of winning ideas-and tells us how we can apply these rules to making our own messages stick.
Focusing on successful marketing campaigns and undying urban legends, this book is written for anyone who strives to craft messages that are memorable and lasting.
About the Author
Chip Heath is a professor of organizational behavior in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. He lives in Los Gatos, California.
Dan Heath is a consultant at Duke Corporate Education. A former researcher at Harvard Business School, he is a co-founder of Thinkwell, an innovative new-media textbook company. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.
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